Administration might back natural gas export bill

A senator seeking to speed the approval process for liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports said the Obama administration has reached out to him to work on a bill together.

Sen. John HoevenJohn HoevenDeath threats against senators remained on Twitter for 2 weeks Senate panel approves funding boost for TSA Overnight Energy: Senate Dems block energy, water bill a third time MORE (R-N.D.) said Energy Secretary Ernest MonizErnest MonizEnergy Dept. helps with Biden’s cancer project Bay Area energy meeting is where climate protection gets real The Trail 2016: Donald and the Supremes MORE reached out to him Wednesday about his bill.

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The legislation would require that the Energy Department decide whether LNG export applications are in the “national interest” within 45 days of the application’s filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

“I talked to the secretary of Energy today, and he has some things he’d like us to incorporate, and then he’s willing to support the bill,” Hoeven said.

Specifically, Moniz told Hoeven that he would rather have the 45-day clock start after FERC completes an environmental impact statement on the proposed export.

“He said there’s information there he needs for the national interest determination,” Hoeven told reporters Wednesday. “I’m willing to endorse those changes if I can get his endorsement on the bill.” 

Hoeven’s bill was scheduled for a vote in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee Thursday. But he said he has pulled the bill so that he can work with Moniz on changes.

“He promised to me that we’d work at it ardently and see if we could come to something that he would endorse as well as the industry endorsement,” he said.

An Energy Department spokeswoman confirmed Moniz's position on the bill.

The Energy Department is obligated to determine whether proposed LNG exports to countries without free-trade agreements with the U.S. are in the “national interest” in order for them to be approved. FERC’s process is separate and focuses on issues such as energy supply and environmental impact.

Hoeven, along with nearly all Republican lawmakers and many Democrats, has pushed since last year to speed the months-long process that the Energy Department goes through to review applications.

The House voted in June on a 45-day time limit past the FERC application filing.

The Obama administration has previously signaled that it is open to speeding the process. Earlier this year, it changed its national interest determination review slightly in an attempt to streamline its process.

Hoeven predicted that the Senate would pass the bill in the next Congress, which starts in January.

But he wants to ensure the the natural gas industry can agree on Moniz’s changes.

“I’m negotiating between industry and the secretary,” Hoeven said.” But if I can get them both, I think we’ll pass it in the new Congress, no problem.”