GOP threatens bill to expand gas exports

House Republican leaders issued a report Tuesday calling on the Obama administration to open the global market for U.S. liquefied natural gas exports (LNG), warning they will act if the Energy Department does not.

Citing economic and geopolitical advantages, the House Energy and Commerce Committee's white paper urges the agency to approve all pending LNG export applications by the end of 2014. 

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The Energy Department has approved only a handful of applications, and roughly 20 are currently pending, according to Energy Committee Chairman Fred Upton.

Inaction would force the committee to pursue legislation on the issue, the Michigan Republican said.

“In essence we’re sending a friendly shot across the bow for DOE [Department of Energy] to take it up,” he said.

The GOP push comes amid a period of American fossil-fuel abundance, thanks to advancements in energy production technology.

Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), chairman of panel’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power said Lithuania, Hungry and Poland have all expressed interest in American LNG.

“We have people all over the world clamoring for this product,” Whitfield said. “Why would this administration want to be dragging their feet on an issue like this.

Some major business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, are backing calls for increased LNG exports, the lawmakers said. However, they acknowledged that some companies — particularly in the chemical industry — have said it would lead to higher costs.

Upton said the committee’s research found otherwise, and said federal action would add certainty and stability to the marketplace.

The lawmakers declined to say how long they would wait before introducing legislation to expand LNG exports. Such a bill might contain a “shot clock” or timing mechanism under which the Energy Department would have to make decisions on pending applications Upton said.

He said legislative language had not been drafted.

“We don’t have a draft bill in my pocket,” he concluded.