Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden has sent a letter to the Department of Energy (DOE) to “understand the criteria” used to determinate whether liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports to a non-Free Trade Agreement (FTA) countries “are in the public interest.”

The Democrat is next in line to chair the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Wyden called on Energy Secretary Steven Chu to explain the “actual decision-making criteria” that DOE will use in making its determinations on applications to export LNG to foreign countries. If the Democrats continue to control the Senate following the November elections, Wyden is slated to become chairman of the committee when Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) retires at the end of the year.

“I request an all-inclusive description of the factors that DOE will consider in determining whether to approve a supplier’s authority to export LNG, and what factors DOE will consider in revoking such authority,” he wrote. “It is important that DOE include in its description how it considers current and proposed exports’ impact on domestic natural gas supplies, air pollutant emissions, natural gas prices, electricity prices, U.S. employment and manufacturing and economic growth.”

The DOE currently is in receipt of LNG export applications totaling more than 21 Bcf/d — or more than 25% of domestic consumption — to countries with which the United States does not have a FTA. Similar applications, exceeding 27 Bcf/d, are pending to countries with which the United States does have a FTA, according to Wyden.

“These amounts far exceed the 2 Bcf/d analyzed in the Sabine Pass decision [order approving LNG exports to non-FTA markets], or the amount predicted in the U.S. Energy Information analysis prepared for DOE in the beginning of the year,” which projected a low-volume case of 6 Bcf/d of LNG exports and a high-volume case of 12 Bcf/d, Wyden wrote (see Daily GPI, May 23, 2011).

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