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 BarrassoSenate panel unanimously approves water infrastructure bill Senate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA Watchdog to probe EPA email preservation MORE (R-Wyo.) and Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichHillicon Valley: Sweeping new data rules take effect | Facebook, Google already hit with complaints | Schumer slams reported ZTE deal | Senators look to save cyber post | Dem wants answers about Trump's phone security Senators express concern over Trump's decision to scrap top cyber post Hillicon Valley: AT&T calls hiring Cohen a 'big mistake' | Wyden wants to block DHS nominee over Stingray surveillance | Amazon pressed on child privacy | One year anniversary of Trump cyber order 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.