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House Committee Amends Energy Bill to Include Expedited LNG Approvals

One day before the House Energy and Commerce Committee was to vote on a comprehensive energy bill, Republicans attached a long list of amendments, including streamlined approval for pipelines and expedited approval for permits to export liquefied natural gas (LNG).

On Tuesday, the committee's chairman, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), released a 208-page manager's amendment to HR 8, also known as the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act. The amendment was released before opening statements on the bill, which were scheduled for later in the day.

"Keeping the lights on and engines running across America should remain a top priority," Upton said. "We have crafted a thoughtful, substantive package to update our laws for the 21st century that will hopefully end up on the president's desk for his signature."

The amendment states that for any proposal to build, expand or operate LNG export facilities --which require authorization from FERC or the U.S. Maritime Administration -- the Department of Energy (DOE) will be required to issue a final decision on any application to export LNG no later than 30 days after a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review is completed. The DOE secretary will also be required to have the applicant disclose the specific destination, or destinations, for the LNG exports.

Also included in the amendment is a provision requiring the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to work with the electric reliability organization to conduct an independent reliability analysis for certain rules that could affect electric generating facilities, including natural gas pipelines.

Another provision calls for the General Accounting Office (GAO) to conduct a study on wholesale electricity markets. That would include a report "describing  the results of a study of whether and how the current market rules, practices and structures of each regional transmission entity produce rates that are just and reasonable by...facilitating the development of necessary natural gas pipelines and electric transmission infrastructure," among other things.

Frank Macchiarola, executive vice president for government affairs at America's Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA), praised the committee's action and said the bill enjoys bipartisan support.

"It is our view that the FERC permitting process is thorough and requires significant investments of time and money," Macchiarola said Tuesday. "DOE is in a position to make a prompt determination regarding an LNG export application once the FERC review is complete; this legislation provides needed clarity around the timeline for these determinations."

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