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Small-Scale LNG Exports Bill Advances in Senate

A proposal to help accelerate small scale liquefied natural gas (LNG) export projects was among two dozen measures passed from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Thursday, but when or if they will receive consideration on the Senate floor is uncertain, according to committee staff contacted by NGI.

Committee Chair Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) indicated she plans to hold a second markup hearing to consider other bills, although she noted that 50 previously passed bills by her panel were still waiting for consideration on the Senate floor.

Proposed last fall by Republican Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Marco Rubio of Florida, S. 1981 would automatically determine that contracts to export up to 51 Bcf/year of LNG are in the public interest to speed up the regulatory process. The bill reportedly would not differentiate between free trade agreements (FTA) and those that are not.

S. 1981 was the only one of 24 bills that required a roll call vote, passing 13-10, with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) the lone Democrat to support the measure. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), ranking Democrat on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee,  noted that the Trump Administration was already pushing small-scale LNG projects.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) last September signaled its intent to expedite the approval process for small-scale gas exports, primarily to countries in the Caribbean, Central America and South America. DOE’s proposed rule would authorize LNG exports to countries without FTAs.

"For applications meeting these criteria, the exports are considered 'small-scale natural gas exports' and are deemed in the public interest under the Natural Gas Act," DOE said at the time. "Exports of natural gas to FTA countries are already deemed in the public interest” under the act.

The 24 bills passed by the Senate committee included boosting DOE research efforts, facilitating federal land exchanges and addressing workforce needs in the Northern Mariana Islands.

"The committee previously has reported more than 50 bills that are still awaiting approval on the Senate floor, and Murkowski has encouraged her colleagues to work with her to expedite the passage of those bills, along with those other ones reported,” said a committee spokesperson.

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