By Ben Geman - 01/31/13 08:59 PM EST
Sens. John BarrassoJohn BarrassoGOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase Tribes open new front in fight over pipelines Pipeline delay stirs anger, but not yet action, on Capitol Hill MORE (R-Wyo.), Mark BegichMark BegichRyan's victory trumps justice reform opponents There is great responsibility being in the minority Senate GOP deeply concerned over Trump effect MORE (D-Alaska) and several colleagues floated the bill as the Energy Department (DOE) reviews 16 applications to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) to countries that don’t have free-trade deals with the U.S.
The “Expedited LNG for American Allies Act” would put NATO allies and Japan, which is seeking to expand imports as most of its nuclear capacity remains offline, on equal footing with the formal free-trade partners.
But the prospect of a major export expansion has generated opposition from some big U.S. manufacturing and chemical companies, who fear higher domestic prices, and has drawn pushback from some environmentalists as well.
A slew of oil-and-gas industry and business groups, however, are strongly backing the export plans. Barrasso called exports good for Wyoming, a natural gas-producing state, and the nation as a whole.
“This will expand economic opportunities across America and help lower our nation's trade deficit. Our bill will also promote the energy security of key U.S. allies by helping reduce their dependence on oil and gas from countries, such as Russia and Iran,” he said in a statement about the new bill.
The bill expands on legislation floated late in 2012 by now-retired Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) that would provide automatic approval for exports to NATO countries.
In addition to Japan and NATO countries, the new Senate bill
would also require DOE to approve exports to other countries if the
State Department, in consultation with the Defense Department,
determines that it would promote U.S. security interests.
With debates on exports heating up, many eyes are on new Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron WydenRon WydenOvernight Cybersecurity: FBI probes possible hack of Dems' phones | Trump's '400-pound hacker' | Pressure builds on Yahoo | Poll trolls run wild Dems slam Yahoo CEO over delay in acknowledging hack Overnight Finance: McConnell offers 'clean' funding bill | Dems pan proposal | Flint aid, internet measure not included | More heat for Wells Fargo | New concerns on investor visas MORE (D-Ore.), who has expressed skepticism about a major expansion.
He has said that Congress should step in to help ensure that regulators find the “sweet spot” on the level of exports allowed. Wyden’s office did not provide immediate comment on Barrasso’s new bill.
Begich, in supporting the bill, highlighted Japan’s push to import more gas.
“In addition to being a key strategic ally for our nation, Japan has been Alaska’s number one trading partner for decades. When I talk to members of the Japanese parliament or officials from Japanese utilities, concern for the security of their natural gas supply always comes up. The U.S. and Alaska have plenty of natural gas to sell to Japan and our NATO allies, and I can’t think of a better place to sell it than to our strategic and economic partners,” Begich said in a statement.
Japan is already the world’s largest LNG importer, and the 2011 nuclear disaster has further increased its need for outside energy supplies.
Almost all of Japan’s nuclear plants remain offline in the wake of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, which led to meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
The other initial sponsors of Barrasso's bill are Sens. John CornynJohn CornynDems gain upper hand on budget McConnell: Senate could drop flood money from spending bill Funding bill rejected as shutdown nears MORE (R-Texas), James InhofeJames InhofeFunding bill rejected as shutdown nears Senate Dems: Add Flint aid to spending deal Shutdown risk grows over Flint MORE (R-Okla.), Tom CoburnTom CoburnRyan calls out GOP in anti-poverty fight The Trail 2016: Words matter Ex-Sen. Coburn: I won’t challenge Trump, I’ll vote for him MORE (R-Okla.), Mike EnziMike EnziOvernight Energy: Obama integrates climate change into national security planning Senate panel approves pension rescue for coal miners GOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase MORE (R-Wyo.), Heidi HeitkampHeidi HeitkampWells Fargo board to decide on executive clawbacks Week ahead: Funding fight dominates Congress Overnight Finance: McConnell offers 'clean' funding bill | Dems pan proposal | Flint aid, internet measure not included | More heat for Wells Fargo | New concerns on investor visas MORE (D-N.D.), John HoevenJohn HoevenOvernight Defense: White House threatens to veto Gitmo bill GOP senators fight female draft in defense bill Majority of GOP senators to attend Trump convention MORE (R-N.D.), Ron JohnsonRon JohnsonDem groups invest big in Bayh in Ind. Senate race DHS head: 750 immigrants granted accidental citizenship Johnson links Dem opponent to Clinton email scandal MORE (R-Wis.), Mike LeeMike LeeFunding bill rejected as shutdown nears Shutdown risk grows over Flint Conservative group presses GOP to vote against spending bill MORE (R-Utah) and David VitterDavid VitterGOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase Louisiana needs Caroline Fayard as its new senator Louisiana Republicans: This isn’t like Sandy MORE (R-La.).