Udall, Bennet push for liquefied natural gas exports

Colorado’s two U.S. senators have joined in signing a bipartisan letter from 34 Senate members urging new Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to expedite approvals for exports of liquefied natural gas.

Such exports would boost domestic gas production and related jobs and economic growth, says the letter, signed by Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, both Democrats from Colorado. It says a failure by the United States to aggressively market LNG abroad would mean many nations “may have no choice but to purchase energy from Iran and other nations that are not aligned with our own national interests.”

U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., and Mark Begich, D-Alaska, led the effort to appeal to Moniz on the issue. Eleven Democrats and 23 Republicans signed the letter.

Federal law generally requires such exports to be approved when they involve nations with free trade agreements with the U.S. Otherwise, the DOE must approve them barring a finding that they are inconsistent with the public interest.

The senators’ letter thanked Moniz for his department’s recent approval of the second application to export to a country without a U.S. free trade agreement. But the senators said 20 applications are still pending, and voiced concern that the agency might consider the applications at a pace that would require two years to approve them all.

“By then, the private financing and market opportunities making these projects attractive may have dissipated, and foreign customers will be forced to turn to other suppliers to meet their energy needs,” their letter says.

Colorado Mesa University’s Unconventional Energy Center supported the increased exports in a letter earlier this year, telling the DOE, “For the Western Slope of Colorado, access to export markets is exactly what we need to reinvigorate industry and boost our local economies.”

However, conservation groups have raised concerns about the prospects of more exports causing more environmental and health impacts from drilling, and others are worried the cost of gas for domestic manufacturers and residents could rise sharply.

The senators acknowledge in their letter the benefits that expanded natural gas has had for domestic economic sectors in recent years.

“We do not expect that to change because the costs to liquefy and ship natural gas abroad provide a substantial discount for domestic consumers and a competitive advantage for industrial users,” they write.

The oil and gas industry has said it can ramp up drilling activity to moderate any price growth from increased exports.


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As reported by Dennis Webb in Sunday’s Sentinel (“Udall, Bennet push for liquefied natural gas exports”), Colorado’s Senators have joined a bipartisan effort to expedite approvals of liquefied natural gas (“LNG”) export permits.

While economic benefits of increased natural gas production on the Western Slope may be temporarily “reinvigorating”, local boosters of accelerated LNG exports should not underestimate the environmental costs thereof.

Thus, first, by opening-up American natural gas market to overseas buyers, the expanded production needed to satisfy that increased demand will redouble the industry’s reliance on hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and consequent threats to water supplies.

However, if (as the industry insists) “fracking” has become “completely safe”, then there is no further need for the so-called “Halliburton Exceptions” to the Safe Drinking Water Act (exempting “fracking” from “underground injection well” regulation) and/or to the Clean Water Act (exempting drilling sites from “storm water runoff” regulations).  Those dubious provisions of Cheney’s Energy Policy Act of 2005 should be promptly repealed.

Second, because environmentally-benign fracking fluids are now widely available (albeit more expensive than traditional cocktails of toxic fracking fluids and diesel fuel), public health and the environment need no longer be “trumped” by corporate pecuniary interests and demand strict prohibitions of all toxins in and/or resulting from proprietary formulas.

Third, because methane is a valuable resource and a potent “greenhouse gas”, operators should be required to comply with the Clean Air Act and employ “best available technology” to “capture” escaping methane – rather than waste it by flaring it off or polluting the atmosphere by venting un-flared methane into the environment.

Fourth, because (reportedly) 5% of well-casing cement jobs fail immediately and 50% over the well’s life, operators should be required to post substantial bonds – sufficient in amount and duration to remediate impacts on water supplies after the well is abandoned.

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