As negotiations take place between the United States and the European Union (EU) over a proposed free trade agreement, a pair of U.S. lawmakers are urging their representative to oppose Europe's push to include language they claim would lead to "automatic and unrestricted exports" of American natural gas and crude oil to the EU.
In a letter Monday to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Edward Markey (D-MA) said they were concerned by an EU proposal to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). They said the proposal, which was leaked earlier this year, "calls for the inclusion of 'a legally binding commitment in TTIP guaranteeing the export of [U.S.] crude oil and gas resources by transforming any mandatory and non-automatic export licensing procedure into a process by which licenses for exports to the EU are granted automatically and expeditiously.'
"An agreement that requires automatic and unrestricted approval of U.S. oil and gas exports to the EU has the potential to harm American consumers, our national security and our environment."
Boxer and Markey added that the proposal ran counter to U.S. law, specifically Section 103 of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA), which prohibits crude oil exports except in instances where the President determines they are within the national interest. "Yet language in a TTIP agreement that requires the United States to 'automatically and expeditiously' approve crude oil export licenses would preclude any review or consideration of those exports as they relate to the national interest, in contravention of the statutory requirements in EPCA," they said.
The Senators added that despite the Department of Commerce issuing rules governing the export of crude oil -- and the requirement that it do the same for natural gas -- there are no such rules for gas exports. Nevertheless, the EPCA applies to gas as well.
"Therefore, the EU proposal to automatically approve natural gas exports may also be inconsistent with U.S. law," Boxer and Markey said. "Moreover, as large-scale exports of U.S. natural gas could significantly drive up prices for American consumers and businesses, squander our opportunity to reduce our reliance on foreign energy supplies, and harm the environment, it is critically important the United States retains its ability to consider the impacts of exporting natural gas on the public."