A group of Republican and Democratic senators have proposed legislation that seeks to expedite exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member nations, Japan and others.

Under the current law, the secretary of the Department of Energy (DOE) automatically approves applications to export LNG to countries with which the United States has a free trade agreement (FTA). The “Expedited LNG for American Allies Act of 2013,” which was introduced by Republican Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma and John Cornyn of Texas, would amend the federal law to treat exports to NATO allies and Japan in the same manner, as well as exports to countries that the secretaries of State and Defense deem would promote the national security interests of the United States.

Prior to approving applications to export natural gas to virtually all NATO member countries and Japan, the DOE secretary is required to determine whether the exports are in the public interest, which involves a lengthy process. “Barrasso’s bill would expedite exports of natural gas to these countries by deeming such exports to be in the public interest and requiring the secretary to automatically approve these export applications,” a spokeswoman for Barrasso said.

“I support LNG exports to countries whether or not they have a free trade agreement with the United States,” Barrasso said. “Our bill will…promote energy security of key U.S. allies by helping reduce their dependence on oil and gas from countries such as Russia and Iran.”

Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK), who cosponsored the measure, is a strong proponent of LNG exports to Japan. “In addition to being a key strategic ally for our nation, Japan has been Alaska’s No. 1 trading partner for decades. When I talk to members of the Japanese parliament or officials from Japanese utilities, concern for the security of their natural gas supply always comes up. The U.S. and Alaska have plenty of natural gas to sell to Japan and our NATO allies,” he said.

“Allowing our strong allies like NATO and Japan to have access to Oklahoma’s abundant natural gas improves our foreign policy posture and encourages domestic energy expansion,” said Inhofe.

Other than the United States, the NATO nations are the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Canada, Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Turkey.

A number of other senators signed onto the bill, including Mike Enzi (R-WY), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), John Hoeven (R-ND), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Mike Lee (R-UT) and David Vitter (R-LA).

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