Markey warns of security threat from imports of Yemen natural gas


Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) is using worries about terrorist attacks emanating from Yemen to argue against U.S. exports of natural gas.

In a letter to President Obama, Markey said exports of natural gas should be restricted so that the U.S. isn't put in the position of needing to import natural gas from countries like Yemen, the home of al Qaeda of the Arab Peninsula (AQAP).

The terrorist group is arguably al Qaeda's most thriving branch and allegedly had been planning an offensive on oil and gas infrastructure in Yemen.

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Markey argues tankers filled with liquefied natural gas from Yemen — which dock at the Everett, Mass. port — pose a significant threat.

“In order to deliver gas to the Everett terminal, LNG tankers must travel through Boston Harbor and dock close to residential neighborhoods, an issue that has caused concern as the threat of terrorism has grown,” Markey, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, wrote to Obama on Monday.

He said imports from Yemen will rise if the U.S. doesn’t hold on to its own natural gas reserves, and that the security threat will then grow.

Markey frequently argues for restrictions on U.S. natural gas exports. He has long said increasing exports would lead to more imports of foreign natural gas. That dynamic would arise if U.S. firms export to fetch higher prices abroad — say, in Asia — while satisfying domestic demand with imports.

Markey’s letter to Obama follows the closing of 19 embassies and consulates in response to a terrorism threat believed to have involved al Qaeda of the Arab Peninsula. Embassies reopened on Saturday. Markey said LNG tankers attractive targets since they are loaded with the highly explosive material and dock in densely populated areas.

The Everett port receives 40 percent of the nation’s natural gas imports, more than any other terminal in the U.S., Markey said. He added that the country receives in a “significant quantity” of the fuel from Yemen. He said it accounted for 2.7 billion cubic feet of imports in January.

Markey also said the terrorist threats should keep the Energy Department from green lighting proposals to build U.S. gas export terminals, which would expand natural gas exports.

The DOE is currently reviewing a suite of applications to send natural gas to nations that lack a free-trade agreement with the U.S.

Those deals draw more scrutiny because federal law requires them to be in the national interest. The department has approved three so far, with the most recent coming last week.

Industry, Republicans and centrist Democrats want the Obama administration to move faster on the applications, saying the opportunity to secure years-long contracts with other countries will diminish as other nations bring supplies to the market.

But detractors assert a rapid export bump would raise prices for domestic consumers and that it would forfeit a newfound competitive advantage for manufacturers.

— This story was updated at 5 p.m.