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Adviser Says Trump Administration Backs LNG Exports, Gives Nod to Jordan Cove

A top adviser to President Trump said the administration supports liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports and wants to issue permits for more LNG export facilities -- including, reportedly, one on the south-central Oregon coast that has been rejected twice by FERC.

Gary Cohn, director of the White House's National Economic Council, said the administration also supports coal, natural gas and hydraulic fracturing (fracking). But those pale in comparison to bigger, overarching issues -- specifically, job creation, free markets and energy independence -- that Trump has hammered on since his days on the campaign trail.

"Those things have to work together," Cohn told attendees of the Institute of International Finance (IIF) Policy Summit in Washington on Thursday, according to a video of the interview posted by Bloomberg. "Different feedstocks have different economics to them, and we're allowing the free market to be the free market."

Cohn said the biggest energy policy issue currently facing the administration "is energy independence and making sure that we can control our own destiny." When pressed by the a moderator, IIF CEO Tim Adams, if he meant for the United States or North America, he said both are important.

"We're mostly concerned about the U.S., but then we care about North America," Cohn said, adding that it is "good" that the United States has started exporting LNG and is building more export terminals.

"We happen to have a feedstock, or a Btu component, that the rest of the world needs," Cohn said. "More and more LNG is needed, and we have a huge excess supply of gas, so we're going to permit more and more of these LNG plants.

"We're going to let these different feedstocks compete in the United States, and we're going to be supportive of them. Part of creating jobs and creating manufacturing in the United States is [asking]: What is your competitive advantage? We have a big competitive advantage: We have cheap energy. We need to keep and promote our cheap energy and use that us a competitive advantage."

According to the Washington Post, Cohn added that "the first thing we're going to do is we're going to permit an LNG export facility in the northwest. Just think of the transport time from the northwest to Japan versus anywhere else. Then we've got to put facilities on the East Coast to get from the East Coast to Germany."

Cohn also said, according to the Post, "the one place we're going to permit in the northwest, it's been turned down twice already." That prompted the newspaper to seek clarification from the White House, which confirmed that he was talking about the proposed Jordan Cove LNG export terminal at Coos Bay, OR, whose main backer in Calgary-based Veresen Inc.

Michael Hinrichs, spokesman for Jordan Cove Energy Project LP, a Veresen subsidiary, told NGIon Friday that "it's refreshing to hear the administration reinforce their commitment to quality energy projects here in the U.S.

"What makes us confident...is similar to what [Cohn] expressed, in that Jordan Cove represents a huge opportunity to leverage the nation's abundant natural gas resources -- to create jobs, build infrastructure, grow economies here at home, but also reach Japanese and Asia-Pacific markets directly...It's nice to hear that from the White House."

Veresen spokesman Riley Hicks told NGIon Friday that the company had no comment.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rejected the $7.5 billion export project in March 2016. At the time, the Commission cited a lack of contracts from buyers for the 1 Bcf/d capacity facility, as well as problems with Veresen's Pacific Connector, a 232-mile transmission pipeline designed to tap natural gas supplies from western Canada and the U.S. Rockies. FERC denied a request for a rehearing last December.

Despite the earlier setbacks, FERC approved a pre-filing application from Jordan Cove in February. The next month, Veresen said the company now expects a final investment decision on the project in 2019, with the terminal and pipeline beginning service in 2024. Jordan Cove plans to re-file its application for the project in the second half of 2017.

Earlier this month, Veresen executives said the company was in advanced talks with an undisclosed Japanese buyer for 1-2 million tons of LNG annually. If successful, it would be the third Japanese entity to purchase LNG from Jordan Cove; JERA Co. Inc. and Itochu Corp. have signed long-term capacity agreements to each annually purchase 1.5 million tons of LNG.

Veresen also said it was considering selling up to a 40% equity interest in the project to offtakers.

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