A bipartisan group of 44 U.S. representatives from Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas want the Department of Energy (DOE) to expedite approval of applications to export liquefied natural gas (LNG), they said in a letter sent to U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu Tuesday.

Burgeoning production from the nation's shale plays has made it vital that the country find an outlet for surplus natural gas, the lawmakers said in their letter. "Building the energy infrastructure necessary to allow market-based exports of liquefied natural gas will not only add stability to the energy production cycle in our region, it will allow our area to quickly adapt to the new dynamics of gas production and marketing."

While they are aware that DOE has begun reviewing and issuing LNG export licenses and is studying the potential impacts of LNG exports, "the process does not seem to have a set timeline for decisions or a sense of urgency," said the letter. "In our collective view, it is time to bring a renewed sense of urgency to the approval process...We strongly support your department taking coherent and timely action to move this process forward."

The letter was signed by 34 Republicans and 10 Democrats with a majority of them (28) representing districts in Texas.

"The promise and challenge of this surplus of natural gas is that it has resulted in extremely low prices for natural gas in our country," said Rep. Gene Green (D-TX). "While this is great for our manufacturing sector, the price has dropped so low that many producers no longer find it economically viable to produce the resource, which could eventually raise the price of natural gas for our manufacturing sector. The approval of strategically located LNG facilities would provide the market opportunities to reincentivize this production while ensuring a stable price and supply for feedstock."

The current federal permitting process "stands in the way of energy companies distributing their products in a timely manner," said Rep. James Lankford (R-OK). "Without the ability to market to international customers, this could have a severe impact on production in our region."

An Obama administration official recently said the export of LNG to other nations "makes sense" and strongly hinted that additional export permits would eventually be issued by DOE (see Daily GPI, June 22).

Last April DOE approved the first application for LNG exports to countries that are not parties to a free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States (see Daily GPI, April 18). Cheniere Energy Inc. units Sabine Pass LNG and Sabine Pass Liquefaction have been approved to export LNG produced in the Lower 48 to non-FTA countries from Sabine Pass' existing LNG import terminal in Cameron Parish, LA. DOE has since put the non-FTA permitting process on hold while it assesses the impact of LNG exports on domestic gas markets.

The letter follows an effort by another bipartisan group of House lawmakers who recently called on Chu to expedite the approval of U.S. company applications to export LNG to foreign countries (see Daily GPI, July 5). Most of those lawmakers came from shale states.

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