Udall, Gardner vie to be champ of LNG exports
A little more than a week into a feud that could run into November, U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, a Republican, and U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat, are tussling for the right to be recognized as the biggest champion of liquefied natural gas.
Gardner, a two-term representative, earlier this month jumped into the race to challenge Udall, a first-term senator.
Udall struck soon after, announcing support for more exports of liquefied natural gas to countries that are members of the World Trade Organization.
Ukraine is a member of the WTO and Udall introduced a bill on Wednesday, dubbed the American Job Creation and Strategic Alliances LNG Act, S. 2083, strategically on the heels of the recent Russian invasion of Crimea.
Not to be outdone, Gardner introduced his own measure on Thursday, the Domestic Freedom and Global Freedom Act. The bill, H.R. 6, was pitched as a measure to expedite approval of LNG export applications that are under review by the U.S. Department of Energy. He also cited the Russian actions in Crimea as illustrating the global need for American natural gas.
And with that, the sniping began.
“As is Senator’s (sic) Udall Washington trademark, he had been missing on this issue until it became convenient,” Gardner campaign spokesman Alex Siciliano said in a statement distributed in response to a Udall staffer’s jab to the effect that Udall’s measure amounted to a “shot,” and Gardner’s bill a “chaser.”
Exporting liquefied natural gas was a hot-button issue long before the Russian invasion of Crimea, though.
Low prices for natural gas have hindered development in remote areas such as northwest Colorado’s Piceance Basin, which produces a relatively dry natural gas, meaning it contains lower amounts of liquids such as butane, propane, natural gasoline and other more valuable products.
Exporting liquefied natural gas could prop up prices, making Piceance Basin natural gas more valuable.
Udall earlier this year wrote to the Grand Junction Economic Partnership supporting the partnership’s plans for a study on what exports of liquefied natural gas could mean to the Western Slope economy, calling it “timely and vital for responsible development” of natural gas in the Piceance Basin.
Gardner has been associated with efforts to promote the international use of natural gas produced in the United States, joining in a bipartisan letter to President Barack Obama last year asking for restrictions on imports to be eased.
Gardner also is an original member of the LNG Export Caucus founded by Democrats and Republicans from California and Texas.
The fight to be seen as a friend of LNG broke out soon after Gardner announced his bid for the Senate seat Udall holds. Though Gardner’s entry ousted two other Republicans from the race, he still faces opposition, but is considered the frontrunner.
For Bonnie Petersen, executive director of Club 20, the West Slope advocacy organization, the Senate-level interest in exporting natural gas is welcome, but it suggests a different question.
“We certainly see LNG as having good potential as a transportation fuel, for energy with little to no emissions and for creating jobs in western Colorado,” Petersen said. “We also have to make sure we have access to the lands where it’s available. We’re glad they’re paying attention and we just hope it lasts.”