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Moniz Defends DOE’s LNG Project Review Process Before Energy Committee

Proposals by Congress intended to speed up the Department of Energy’s (DOE) approval of liquefied natural gas (LNG) export projects are unnecessary given the agency’s recent track record, according to U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz.

Moniz defended DOE’s LNG project review process while testifying on matters of energy security before the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Energy and Power Subcommittee Thursday.

“So far we have approved and, frankly, since our change in the process in 2014, we have approved quite speedily, every application that is ready for action,” Moniz said. “The idea that we are somehow dragging this out is simply incorrect.”

DOE has to gather the necessary information to make a national interest determination “including, for example [the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s] action,” he said. “So right now we have acted on all of the applications, and frankly, up until now we’ve approved them all...since our streamlining of the process in 2014 we have approved them in as short as one day after FERC action…”

Moniz was asked about provisions included in energy reform bills passed through the House (see Daily GPI, Dec. 3, 2015) and Senate (see Daily GPI, April 20) that would set deadlines for DOE to approve projects under the Natural Gas Act once FERC has signed off on them.

“We have consistently said we see no need for this by performance,” he said, adding that the deadlines could have “unintended consequences that can go in the opposite direction.”

Moniz fielded questions on a broad range of energy security topics from the House panel Thursday. Citing “growing infrastructure interdependencies,” he emphasized the need to modernize the nation’s energy infrastructure -- including natural gas pipelines -- against threats such as cyber attacks and weather events exacerbated by rising sea temperatures.

“The threats of energy security ultimately come to fossil fuel supply...as we go into a low carbon transition we are addressing energy security, but in the near- to mid-term we are also going to have to increase our approach to resilience of infrastructure, because among the many threats, the threats associated with climate change to our infrastructure are just growing, and they will grow further,” Moniz said. “So that’s where we need to harden our infrastructure, and we need to improve our response to the inevitable disruptions that we’re seeing.”

The recent opposition to pipelines and transmission projects creates “vulnerability if the infrastructure is not there” in the event of “another polar vortex, or who knows what would happen,” Moniz said, adding that this applies “not just [to] wires and pipes but inland waterways” and other kinds of infrastructure.

Noting that the United States is expected to become a net natural gas exporter by 2017, Moniz highlighted the positive effects of the shale boom, both domestically and globally. “It has led to a tremendous renewal in manufacturing, $170 billion invested just in the chemical arena and, by the way, reduced carbon emissions...geopolitically we are looked at in a very, very different way.” However, he also said the increase in crude oil exports since Congress lifted the ban last year (see Daily GPI, Dec. 16, 2015) has been “very, very modest” as the United States continues to import 7 million b/d.

Moniz said he believes the United States must continue to invest heavily in innovation, not just in renewables but “across the board,” including in carbon capture and storage technologies (see Daily GPI, Aug. 25).

“We are heading in this direction inexorably in terms of lower carbon, and the Paris agreement [see Daily GPI, Aug. 19], no matter what one thinks about it, tells you that we are developing a multi-trillion dollar global clean energy technology business, so we also want to be at the head of that train,” he said.

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