GOP lawmaker calls on White House to push natural-gas exports

Earlier this month, Lankford joined 33 other Republicans and 10 Democrats from Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas in a letter urging Energy Secretary Steven Chu to fast-track LNG export facility certifications. Lankford said Chu had not yet responded.

With international natural-gas prices fetching three times the cost per million British thermal units (BTUs) than it does in the United States, the lawmakers contend the nation could capitalize by exporting the energy source.

Environmentalists, however, have pushed just as hard as GOP lawmakers and oil-and-gas interests to prevent expanded natural-gas development. They charge that not enough of the public health and environmental effects from hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” are known to broaden natural-gas drilling.

Fracking, the process of injecting a high-pressure mixture of sand, chemicals and water into tight rock formations to unlock natural gas, has been linked to seismic activity and water contamination. It also releases methane, a greenhouse gas, into the air.

Greens have gained a bit more clout with the White House in recent months as Obama stared down a reelection campaign amid complaints that he had abandoned environmentalists. Those environmentalists were at least partially responsible for Obama delaying a final decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring Canadian oil sands to Texas refineries.

Lankford on Wednesday fingered environmentalists as one of the main culprits for preventing LNG exportation.

“They tested the water issues and found that not to be an issue,” Lankford said. “Now they’re trying to focus on the fracking aspects of methane coming out during the fracking. When you look at real numbers and what’s really happening, it’s a very clean fuel.”

U.S. firms are jumping at the chance to take advantage of overseas markets, with the domestic one already flooded with cheap natural gas. ExxonMobil, which had in the past abandoned plans to export LNG, last week filed a joint proposal with Qatar Petroleum International to convert a Houston-area LNG facility into one that exports.

The Energy Department (DOE) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) must rule on that project, which could bring in up to $10 billion of investment.