Dems push DOE for environmental analysis of natural gas exports

Led by Democratic Reps. Jared Polis (Colo.) and Maurice Hinchey (N.Y.), the lawmakers called on DOE to conduct an environmental impact statement, as outlined under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), before approving more export deals or LNG terminal permits.

“We are concerned that exporting more LNG would lead to greater hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking,’ activity thus threatening the health of local residents and jobs,” the letter said. “For instance, increased natural gas production in communities across the nation could negatively impact farmers, residents and local property values.”

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

Many lawmakers and the gas industry say environmental fears about fracking are badly overstated and that the process is safe.

Republicans, and some Democrats, have pushed the administration to expedite LNG export approval. They say the opportunity to sell cheap, domestic natural gas at higher prices abroad could be a financial boon that creates jobs and stabilizes the energy market.

But some lawmakers, mainly Democrats, have urged caution on exporting LNG. They say it could raise electricity prices for consumers and the manufacturing industry, on top of the environmental concerns raised in the Wednesday letter.

The letter signatories said LNG exports highlight the need for a review, citing NEPA language that said an environmental impact statement is triggered by “major Federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.”

The lawmakers said ramping up LNG exports would accelerate fracking. They cited a U.S. Energy Information Administration study that said 63 percent of export demand would come from increased production, 85 percent of which would come from unconventional methods such as fracking.