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Israeli gas platforms, which produce newly discovered Israeli natural gas, are seen in the Mediterranean sea, west of the port city of Ashdod in this February 25, 2013 file picture. (REUTERS/Amir Cohen/Files) Israeli gas platforms, which produce newly discovered Israeli natural gas, are seen in the Mediterranean sea, west of the port city of Ashdod in this February 25, 2013 file picture. (REUTERS/Amir Cohen/Files)  

Obama Administration To Unilaterally Slow LNG Export Terminal Approval Process

The Energy Department proposed a rule on Thursday that would likely slow the approval process for liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals by adding extra layers of compliance to an already cumbersome process.

Under this rule, proposed LNG terminals must get approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and undergo a rigorous environmental assessment required under the National Environmental Policy Act. This is on top of getting approval from the Energy Department.

The move angered Republicans, who accused the Obama administration of working around Congress to undermine the country’s energy potential.

“Rather than working with Congress to fix the problem, the administration announces an abrupt move to introduce new excuses to delay an already broken process.”

“This action will further slow down approvals and could discourage investment in export projects,” Republican Reps. Fred Upton of Michigan and Cory Gardner of Colorado said in a statement. “Instead of adding more uncertainty to the process, we need a solution that brings an end to the existing queue.”

“By simply requiring DOE to make a decision, we can avoid more Keystone-like delays and send a much-needed and immediate signal to our allies, and our enemies, that American natural gas will be an available source of affordable energy,” Upton and Gardner added.

There are currently 26 LNG export terminal applications awaiting approval to be built, according to the Energy Department. Twenty-four of them would require review by FERC and two would need to be reviewed by the Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) because they are offshore terminals.

But all of the 26 proposed export terminals would have to undergo NEPA analysis, which is a time-consuming process. The Energy Department says the new rule will streamline the application process.

“Today’s decision by the Department of Energy to streamline the permit approval process is a positive step forward to responsibly export America’s abundant supply of natural gas,” said Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu.

Landrieu, who recently became chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is facing a tough election this fall and has been slammed by opponents for being ineffective in helping boost Louisiana’s energy industry, including natural gas exports.

The slow LNG export approval process and the delays in approving the Keystone XL pipeline have put Landrieu at odds with most of her party — which has been aggressively pushing policies to combat global warming and wean the U.S. off of oil and natural gas.

“Increasing our natural gas exports will create tens of thousands of high-paying jobs here at home, position America as an energy superpower and boost the energy security of America and its allies,” Landrieu said.

Despite Landrieu’s optimism at the new Energy Department approval process, Republican lawmakers continue to urge the Obama administration to move quickly to approve LNG terminals to boost the U.S. economy and help European allies get off of Russian gas.

Environmentalists cheered on the rule, saying it would help the U.S. address global warming.

“The Sierra Club applauds the Department of Energy for proposing to end the practice of conditionally approving LNG export applications before an environmental review has been conducted, as well as recognizing the need to consider LNG’s entire emissions footprint, from the wellhead on,” Sierra Club attorney Nathan Matthews said in a statement.

“It’s never made sense to evaluate LNG exports without knowing the impact they would have on the environment and on our climate, so this announcement is a step in the right direction,” Matthews said.

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