Republican Lawmakers Press Regulators to Expedite LNG Project Approvals

(Reuters) — Two influential U.S. Republican lawmakers have urged the head of the federal energy regulator to process applications for liquefied natural gas, or LNG, projects, saying any delays could force allies and partners to turn to countries like Qatar and Iran for the fuel.

President Joe Biden, a Democrat, in January announced a pause on Department of Energy approvals of LNG exports to countries in Asia and Europe in order to study environmental, climate and economic impacts of the booming business.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, an independent panel, approves other aspects of LNG projects including construction. Venture Global's Calcasieu Pass 2 LNG project got FERC's environmental approval in July last year, but FERC has not so far voted on its construction.

Senator John Barrasso, the ranking member of the Senate energy committee, and Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the head of the House of Representatives energy committee, both Republicans, urged FERC Chairman Willie Phillips in a letter dated April 30 to process applications for LNG projects in a timely and fair manner.

The U.S. last year became the world's largest exporter of LNG, which is natural gas supercooled to a liquid before being shipped. Supporters say it can help some economies quit using coal. But many environmentalists say LNG locks consumers into fossil fuel dependence for decades and that LNG once regassified can leak methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from pipelines.

Why It's Important

It shows Biden's pause is becoming more politically charged as it is the first official pressure Barrasso has put on FERC on the matter. This month, nearly 75 Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to Biden expressing support for the pause.

Besides CP2, four other LNG projects are awaiting approval from FERC.

Key Quotes

"The Commission must not compromise its independence from the White House and the Department of Energy by 'pausing' or otherwise delaying its review of any application, the approval of which is necessary for the siting, construction, expansion, or operation of an LNG facility," the lawmakers said in their letter.

"Injecting any further delay to FERC’s review process would hurt the United States and our allies and would be unfair to project proponents."

What's Next?

FERC will reveal on Thursday whether it will consider CP2 or other LNG projects at its open meeting on May 23. A FERC spokesperson said Phillips will respond to the lawmakers "in due course."

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