Returning to North Dakota, where he has served as both a state lawmaker and regulator, FERC Commissioner Tony Clark told an energy industry gathering Thursday that infrastructure development is the key to a North American energy renaissance.

Clark said the long-held belief that the United States was destined to be dependent on oil and gas imports “has been proven demonstrably false” by the shale revolution. After his speech, he told NGI that he is concerned about the sometimes lack of coordination between the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy (DOE) in their respective roles addressing the backlog of liquefied natural gas (LNG) export projects.

What Clark called an “inherent mismatch” between the two federal energy agencies is bogging down the pending project applications. DOE uses a first-in, first-out approach to applications for permission to export gas to non-free trade agreement (FTA) nations, while FERC moves applications for building export facilities on the basis of the completeness of the applications, no matter when those applications were filed, he said.

DOE also has to delve into more murky, geopolitical questions, while the FERC applications are focused on technical and environmental questions, said Clark. He said in his speech that current LNG export applications total about 21 Bcf/d, but the market will ultimately determine how many projects get built. “This [gas exports] was something that was inconceivable just a few years ago,” he said.

Beyond exports, FERC has the responsibility for overseeing the development of the gas pipeline system in the United States. Shale-related pipeline projects with pending applications at FERC total nearly 3,500 miles and represent an investment of about $18 billion, Clark said.

“The energy pipeline network we have in the United States in many ways is the envy of the world. We have to understand that all of this infrastructure development is key for our nation to take advantage of this gift [shale oil and gas], and we have to find more and better ways for getting [the energy] to market in the safest and most efficient ways possible.” He added that rail transport is a good option.

Clark called out “serious pipeline constraints” for getting Utica and Marcellus Shale supplies to New England. “It is not very far geographically from Pennsylvania to New England, but there are serious pipeline constraints that keep supplies from an important market and energy consumers are paying higher prices as a result,” he said.

“In my mind, this tells me we must continue to support the safest and most efficient ways to bring new energy supplies to market.”