The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is now responsible for evaluating the compliance with siting requirements of proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) export projects, the agency said in letters sent to developers this month.

"Effective immediately, the PHMSA will be responsible for evaluating a project's compliance with the siting requirements in Part 193, Subpart B, of Title 49," PHMSA said in the letters, which were dated Aug. 14 and filed at FERC by some of the companies in recent days.

Companies must submit completed design spill package documentation to PHMSA staff, according to the letters, which were sent to developers of several projects, including Jordan Cove [CP17-495], NextDecade Corp.'s Rio Grande LNG [CP16-454], Calcasieu Pass [CP15-550], and Annova LNG's Texas LNG project [CP16-480].

The letters appear to be the latest in efforts by PHMSA and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to coordinate efforts on pending LNG applications.

Last month, FERC Chairman Kevin McIntyre said the two agencies had agreed to implement new collaborative procedures that would "significantly reduce the time required to review LNG project applications by taking full advantage of the expertise of our federal partners at PHMSA, the safety experts, to study the potential impacts to public safety of each and every LNG terminal proposal."

To address the rapid increase in LNG workload, FERC would hire additional engineering staff, McIntyre said at that time. The Commission was 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.

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

An escalating trade war between the United States and China threatens to jeopardize access to one of the largest markets for LNG exports and could delay final investment decisions on the next wave of U.S. LNG export terminals, according to a recent analysis by Morningstar Commodities Research.