(Adds background on bill, comments from lawmakers, trade group)
By Ayesha Rascoe
WASHINGTON, June 25 The U.S. House of
Representatives on Wednesday approved legislation that would set
a deadline for Energy Department reviews of liquefied natural
gas export applications, a move aimed at securing swifter
approvals for shipping gas overseas.
The legislation, mostly backed by Republicans, would require
the department to issue a decision 30 days after the Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission has completed its environmental
analysis of an LNG export project.
Passed by a vote of 266 to 150, the bill must still get
through the Senate.
The measure, which attracted the support of 46 Democrats,
has a slightly better shot at making it through the
Democrat-controlled Senate than other energy bills that have
typically languished after clearing the House.
Senate Energy Committee head Mary Landrieu, of Louisiana,
along with Senator Mark Udall, a Democrat from Colorado, have
introduced a similar bill in the Senate that would require a
decision within 45 days of FERC's environmental review.
Since the bill would not force the department to approve any
applications and a similar measure has support from some
Democrats in the Senate, Center for Liquefied Natural Gas
President Bill Cooper said he was hopeful the bill could become
The differences between the Senate and House measure are not
"enough to get upset about," Cooper said on press call
After a nearly two-year pause in the issuance of permits to
assess the economic implications of allowing the sale of U.S.
gas overseas, the Energy Department approved six LNG export
applications in the past year.
But supporters of the House bill said the department is not
moving quickly enough, especially in light of Russia's seizure
of Crimea from Ukraine.
Republicans have made the case that U.S. LNG exports would
help U.S. allies reduce their dependence on Russian gas.
The bill "would send an immediate signal to our allies and
our enemies that the United States is serious about energy
security," said Cory Gardner, the Republican sponsor of the
Booming shale gas development has opened the door for
significant U.S. LNG exports, but critics have raised concerns
that allowing too much of the nation's gas to be shipped abroad
could raise energy prices and harm domestic manufacturers.
Opponents of the measure said it would not do much to help
Europe or Ukraine, since the construction of gas export
facilities would take years.
Henry Waxman, the top Democrat on the House Energy
Committee, said the bill was unnecessary since the department is
already approving applications.
"We should give DOE the time it needs to weigh the pros and
cons of granting an application," Waxman said. "Instead, the
bill sets a 30-day deadline that would rush that process."
Despite his opposition to the bill, Waxman said it was an
improvement over the original version, which would have had the
effect of eliminating the need for Department of Energy review
of LNG exports.
(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by James Dalgleish and Dan