Energy Dept. gives OK to third natural-gas export proposal

Still, Republicans and centrist Democrats say the department has dragged its feet on the proposals for exporting to nations that lack a free-trade agreement with the United States. Those deals must be in the public interest under federal law, which has invited more scrutiny.

The DOE has said it is reviewing the applications on a case-by-case basis, rather than ruling on them en masse.

The other two Energy-approved projects — the Sabine Pass terminal in Cameron Parish, La., and the Freeport terminal in Quintana Island, Texas — would export 2.2 Bcf/d and 1.4 Bcf/d, respectively.

The Lake Charles proposal still needs to get the green light from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which includes an environmental review. The Sabine Pass and Freeport proposals also still need to clear the FERC hurdle.

Export proponents say the deals are no-brainers, arguing trade will generate federal revenues and boost jobs. They’ve urged haste, as several other nations are also rushing into the global natural gas market.

But some Democrats have stressed caution, worrying that unfettered exports would significantly raise domestic energy prices to undercut a competitive advantage for a resurgent manufacturing industry.

Many analysts, however, contend U.S. exports will be relatively restrained, with some suggesting that four projects total will get built. While they say increase exports will nudge domestic prices upward, the bump will be modest.

— This story was updated at 12:48 p.m.