Senators introduce bill to speed natural gas exports

Two senators introduced a bipartisan bill Tuesday to speed up approvals to export liquefied natural gas.

The bill from Sens. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoDems lambaste Trump’s ‘outrageous’ EPA chemical safety pick Overnight Regulation: EPA misses smog rule deadline | Search is on for new HHS chief | ACLU sues over abortion pill restrictions | Justices weigh gerrymandering Price resignation sets off frenzy of speculation over replacement MORE (R-Wyo.) and Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichThe Hill's 12:30 Report New Mexico Gov: GOP health care bill 'still needs some work' Dems ask FEC to create new rules in response to Russian Facebook ads MORE (D-N.M.) follows a series of unsuccessful attempts last year to set time limits on the Energy Department’s consideration of export applications.

The senators said their bill would create jobs domestically, reduce the country’s trade deficit and help U.S. allies’ energy security.

“Right now, LNG exports are being stalled by Washington red tape and permitting delays,” Barrasso said in a statement. “Our bipartisan bill fixes this by creating clear deadlines that force Washington to make timely decisions on these critical energy permits.”

Gas exports are severely restricted, and any shipments to countries without free-trade agreements with the U.S. require an Energy Department determination that the exports are within the national interest.

Lawmakers have complained that Energy takes too long to make its determinations, a complaint that earned the Obama administration’s sympathy last year when it took its own steps to streamline the process.

Under Tuesday’s bill, Energy would have 45 days to complete its review.

“Improving the process for reviewing permits to export U.S. natural gas to our allies would create jobs in states like New Mexico because we’re rich in the resource,” Heinrich said.

“If the U.S. does not aggressively market LNG abroad, many of these countries may have no choice but to purchase energy from Russia or other nations that are not aligned with our own national interests.”

While the legislation is similar to a bill sponsored last year by Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), it would start the 45-day clock only after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) completes its environmental review of an export application.

The Obama administration said last year it would support the measure if the clock started after FERC’s review.

The bill from Barrasso and Heinrich would not go as far as one introduced by then-Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) that would have forced all gas export applications to be approved.