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Republican Senators Introduce Bill to Bolster U.S. Energy Security

A bill introduced Friday by a quartet of Republican Senators would streamline the approval process for energy production and infrastructure development projects, reduce flaring and expedite liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports to America's allies, according to its sponsors.

"The U.S. renaissance in oil and natural gas production has been a rare bright spot in our economy, but the vast majority of that production has occurred on state and private lands," said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who sponsored the North Atlantic Energy Security Act along with Sens. John Hoeven (R-ND), John McCain (R-AZ) and John Barrasso (R-WY). "This bill takes several important and long overdue steps to bolster our energy security, our economy, and our allies across the Atlantic."

The bill "would streamline government roadblocks and bureaucratic red-tape that prevent and delay onshore American energy production," reforming the leasing process for onshore oil and natural gas projects on federal lands "to eliminate unnecessary delays," the senators said. It would also reform the process for energy permitting "to encourage the timely development of our federal resources; set clear rules for the development of U.S. oil shale resources; establish common sense steps to create an all-of-the-above American energy plan using our vast federal resources; and modernize and update the bidding process for oil and natural gas leases by allowing Internet-based auctions."

Barrasso and two other Western senators in March introduced legislation to curb associated natural gas flaring at the wellhead on federal and Native American lands (see Shale Daily, March 13). The Natural Gas Gathering Enhancement Act (S 2112) would expedite the permitting of gas gathering pipeline systems on the federal and Native lands, aiming to get the associated gas supplies to processing plants. The North Atlantic Energy Security Act was based in part on S 2112, calling for a categorical exclusion under the National Environmental Policy Act for certain gathering lines located on federal land (excluding the National Park System, the National Wildlife Refuge System and the National Wilderness Preservation System) and Indian land and service any oil --  but not natural gas -- wells.

"Currently, the United States is flaring natural gas that other nation's desperately want to buy," said Barrasso. "Our bill would fix this problem by expediting permits for natural gas pipelines and LNG export terminals. It's a win-win for our environment, American workers, and the energy security of our allies and strategic partners."

The bill would require the secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture departments to issue rights-of-way for natural gas gathering lines that qualify for a categorical exclusion within 30 days, and rights-of-way for all other natural gas gathering lines servicing oil wells within 60 days. It would also require the secretary of Energy to approve exports of natural gas to Ukraine, NATO allies and Japan, in addition to free trade countries, and require the Department of Energy to make a decisions for other LNG export applications within 45 days after companies complete the pre-filing process with Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

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