Bill fast-tracks energy exports

A measure aimed at boosting exports of liquefied natural gas and possibly pumping life into energy-dependent economies will go to the U.S. Senate after passing the House on Wednesday.

H.R. 351, the LNG Permitting Certainty and Transparency Act, passed the House on a vote of 277-133. It is intended to speed the approval process for liquefied natural gas export terminals and reduce delays that supporters said have held up construction of the terminals.

“The demand for American-produced LNG is there, and the only thing standing in the way of increased exports is an unwieldy bureaucracy in Washington caught up in pushing red tape instead of common sense,” said U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., whose 3rd Congressional District includes the Piceance Basin of northwest Colorado.

The Piceance Basin is the subject of an effort to supply Pacific Rim or other nations with natural gas at prices that would encourage production, buttressing the western Colorado economy. The effort is being led by the Grand Junction Economic Partnership, West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association and other groups that are planning to tour several Asian nations this spring in hopes of finding an LNG trading partner.

A measure similar to the House bill is pending in the Senate. The bill by Sens. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., and John Barrasso, R-Wyo., is different in that it would give the Department of Energy 45 days to act on applications for terminals while the House bill has a 30-day deadline.

Advocates of LNG exports — including the companies building the facilities and the energy companies extracting natural gas — hope to push the legislation through Congress on a strong, bipartisan vote.

They already mustered a two-thirds majority in the House on Wednesday — enough to override a presidential veto, based on the number of members present and voting. It is unclear if they could maintain a veto-proof level of support with more House members voting.

Forty-one Democrats crossed party lines to vote with 236 Republicans in support of the legislation. More than two dozen green groups warned Congress that the legislation would force the Energy Department to move too quickly through its decision-making process, potentially putting both the public interest and the environment at risk.

Opponents of natural gas exports say they would unleash more greenhouse gas emissions, in part by encouraging more domestic production of the fossil fuel. Natural gas produces fewer carbon dioxide emissions than coal when burned for fuel, but methane lost in transporting and processing it can undermine those gains, critics say.

Hearst News Service contributed to this report.


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