In a rare display of bipartisanship in the U.S. House of Representatives, lawmakers on Wednesday passed legislation to streamline the approval of applications to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) to World Trade Organization countries, after rejecting two amendments opposed by supporters.
The House voted 266-150 in favor of HR 6 -- known as the Domestic Prosperity and Global Freedom Act, with 46 Democrats joining 220 Republicans. Sixteen lawmakers did not cast a vote.
Lawmakers agreed, through a voice vote, to an amendment by Reps. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Gene Green (D-TX). The amendment would place a 30-day deadline on the Department of Energy (DOE) to issue a final decision on applications to export LNG following the conclusion of a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review of the LNG facilities. It would also require public disclosure of LNG export destinations.
"The economic impacts alone make natural gas exports a winning policy, but the geopolitical impacts are an incredible benefit as well and have been ignored for far too long," Gardner said. "Allies around the world have told us that they would greatly benefit from American LNG. It is time to help our friends abroad. It is time to create jobs here at home."
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), who voted against the bill, said an expedited review process would not lead to projects coming on-line sooner. "We need the construction of the infrastructure for the export of natural gas," he said.
Lawmakers rejected amendments by Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Rush Holt (D-NJ) to, respectively, require the disclosure of the use of eminent domain for LNG export infrastructure, and to prohibit DOE from issuing any authorizations prior to the secretary of the DOE issuing final regulations for determining whether an export application is within the public interest.
The Holt amendment failed on a voice vote, while the DeFazio amendment was rejected through a recorded vote. The roll call vote for the latter was not available Wednesday afternoon from the House clerk's office.
A motion by Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) to recommit the bill to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce was also rejected by a recorded vote. According to the House clerk, Garamendi had sought the addition of an amendment requiring the DOE secretary to reject LNG applications if they would increase the price of gas, electricity, or home heating for seniors on fixed incomes.
Garamendi also wanted to ensure gas would not be exported to any nation that was a state sponsor of terrorism or to any nation or corporation that were to steal U.S. military technology or intellectual property through cyber-attacks. In addition, he wanted DOE to require U.S.-flagged ships and shipping containers for LNG exports.
HR 6 gives the local circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals original and exclusive jurisdiction over any civil action involving an export facility within its territory. Specifically, the court would review any orders issued by the DOE for an export facility's application, and any failure by DOE to issue a decision on such an application.
On Tuesday, the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas (CLNG) said it supported HR 6 and predicted swift passage by the House (see Daily GPI, June 24). A competing bill in the Senate, SB 2494, was introduced by Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Mark Udall (D-CO) earlier this month (see Daily GPI, June 19).
With growing supplies of domestic gas production forecast, America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) applauded Wednesday's vote.
"The U.S. Energy Information Administration forecasts that natural gas production will climb 56% by 2040, allowing us to power our economy and fuel a manufacturing renaissance at home, while helping our friends and allies abroad" ANGA CEO Marty Durbin said following the House vote. "We look forward to working with the Senate as it considers legislation to bring more natural gas – and its benefits – to a growing global energy market.”
Meanwhile, a trade association representing manufacturers said it was opposed to HR 6. The Industrial Energy Consumers of America (IECA) argued Wednesday that the 30-day time frame for DOE to make a public interest decision was "not enough time to sufficiently consider the U.S. economic impacts of the remaining 25 applications for LNG export shipments, which would increase U.S. LNG exports to 36.9% of U.S. demand."
IECA President Paul Cicio said HR 6 "is anti-consumer and puts the interests of natural gas producing states over every constituent and consumer of natural gas and electricity in the country. And, natural gas prices are already forecasted to rise 162.7% by 2025 from 2012, without all of the LNG export demand included."