LNG: lots of lip service, but no impact for voters

One thing is certain in the race for the U.S. Senate seat currently occupied by Democrat Mark Udall — the outcome of the election won’t hinge on diverging views regarding natural gas production.

Both Udall and his likely Republican challenger, Colorado’s 4th Congressional District Rep. Cory Gardner, are falling over themselves to promote legislation to speed up the approval process for liquified natural gas exports.

The Obama administration on Monday gave conditional approval of a permit for an LNG terminal in Oregon. It’s the first export site on the West Coast, providing gas-rich Rocky Mountain states with easier access to international markets. Colorado producers will be able to ship gas to the terminal using an existing pipeline, according to the Western Energy Alliance.

“I am proud that the U.S. Department of Energy has heeded my calls to speed its approval of pending liquefied-natural-gas export terminals,” Udall said in a statement following the Energy Department’s announcement Monday.

Meanwhile, Gardner introduced legislation earlier this month that would facilitate the accelerated approval of LNG export applications that are currently under review by the Department of Energy.

Oregon’s Jordan Cove facility was the seventh LNG terminal the Obama administration has approved. There are 24 more proposals in the pipeline.

The crisis in the Ukraine has prompted politicians to call for more LNG exports as a way to tamp down Russia’s influence in Europe. Russia has significant control of the natural gas that European nations depend on to heat their homes and power their industries.

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board supports an amendment to the Senate Ukraine aid package that would require the Energy Department to automatically approve applications for facilities that will export gas to Ukraine and NATO countries.

If the White House and Majority Leader Harry Reid attempt to block that vote, “a bi-partisan coalition should roll over them in the national interest,” it wrote in a Tuesday editorial.

An increase in export terminals would benefit Colorado’s natural gas industry, making it an easy issue for Udall and Gardner to champion. But the environmental lobby opposes more drilling, and industries that rely on natural gas oppose an increase in exports, fearing a rise in domestic prices.

America’s Energy Advantage, a group which includes major companies like Dow and Alcoa, warned that the Jordan Cove approval puts “billions of dollars of investment and millions of jobs at risk. This latest export approval will raise domestic natural gas, electricity, home-heating and propane prices for every American, undermine our manufacturing competitiveness and cost the nation good-paying jobs.”

Despite the national dialogue on the pros and cons of increased exports, LNG is a throwaway issue in the Senate race. Neither candidate can afford not to support an issue with such a big potential impact on the state’s economy.


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