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Reports of FERC LNG Delays Are Greatly Exaggerated, Says Chairman McIntyre

A published report claiming that FERC has informed liquefied natural gas (LNG) developers that reviews of project applications are 12-18 months behind schedule is incorrect, according to Chairman Kevin McIntyre.

"FERC has issued no such letter," McIntyre said in a podcast released Tuesday by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. "Indeed, with regard to the timing of the remaining pending LNG applications, there is good news to report.

"In just the last few days, we have made truly significant strides in reforming the permitting process with our federal partners, eliminating duplicative efforts and instituting a streamline procedure that will significantly reduce our LNG permitting timelines. The details are still being hammered out, but we expect to have a formalized agreement in place in the coming days."

The Commission has issued revised notice schedules for two projects, as well as one schedule for a greenfield LNG project subject to the FAST-41 process, in the past six months, McIntyre said. No other LNG project schedules have been revised or released.

"FERC staff is very cognizant of the financial market impacts of its LNG project schedules. Moreover, since we have been working diligently to streamline our permitting process and are still making significant strides in that direction, the release of any schedules to date would have been premature.

“For these reasons, among others, FERC takes very seriously the schedules that it issues regarding these LNG projects,” he said. “To that end, we will not issue schedules until we have all the facts necessary and have implemented our improved processes to create accurate schedules."

Fifteen LNG terminal applications are pending before the Commission, most of them for export projects, compared with a single export application in 2011, McIntyre said.

"But it’s not just the number of applications that have increased. We're seeing evolution in the size and complexity of the projects as well. Further, we not only review these applications, but we also monitor the construction of these projects post-authorization. Currently, the Commission's Office of Energy Projects staff are performing construction inspections for six authorized projects."

To address the rapid increase in LNG workload, FERC is hiring additional engineering staff, McIntyre said.

"We have made offers to several talented LNG engineers, and we are looking for ways to attract additional LNG engineers."

The Commission is also identifying other opportunities to hire third parties to assist LNG staff, and looking for ways to improve coordination with other federal entities, including the Energy and Transportation departments.

Last month, McIntyre told a Senate panel that he is personally committed to seeing the Commission accelerate permitting interstate natural gas pipelines, while also hiring more staff to address a backlog of permitting for LNG export infrastructure. Concern that the Commission was short-staffed and faced a backlog in the permitting process for LNG export infrastructure was also raised during a House Subcommittee on Energy hearing last April.

Commissioner Neil Chatterjee recently proposed pay increases, fellowship programs and a new regional office as ways to combat "personnel resource constraints inhibiting" an ongoing review of LNG export terminal applications.

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