LNG Legislative Endgame Nears

Congress is currently on an extended summer break, which lasts through Labor Day, Sept. 5. This hiatus provides an opportune opportunity to reflect upon where the LNG exports legislation stands before the 114th Congress enters the legislative “homestretch.”

As readers of Congress Blog are well aware, bills have been pending for several years to bring greater certainty to the process by which the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE) reviews applications to export U. S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) to nations that do not have a free trade agreement with the United States. (LNG exports to free trade agreement nations are automatically deemed in the “public interest,” but exports to non-FTA nations must undergo a formal public interest review.)

In recent months, the House of Representatives and the Senate have both passed LNG exports language as part of broader energy bills. If enacted the LNG provisions would set a new statutory deadline on DOE’s non-FTA licensing process.

The principal (small) variant in the bills is when such a deadline would be set… the House favors a 60-day deadline after the requisite final environmental documentation is complete and the Senate a 45-day deadline. If such a deadline had been in place, the most recent major non-FTA application (the one for Lake Charles LNG) might have been accelerated by eight or nine months.

A joint House-Senate conference committee is expected to meet this Fall to reconcile the differences in the energy bills. In addition, the House included the LNG exports language in its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2017, which opens a path for possible consideration of the LNG issue by the NDAA House-Senate conference committee as well.

This being an election year, the House will return on Sept. 6 and work until Sept. 30. The Senate has the same return date, but remains in session for a week longer, until Oct. 7. Both chambers will then recess until after the Nov. 8 elections, returning for a post-election (colorfully—and somewhat inexplicably—called the “lame duck”) session that will likely stretch from mid-November into December.

Some observers are saying that there may not be sufficient time to complete work on the energy bill or the NDAA during the abbreviated legislative window in September. Nonetheless, an effort must be made to do just that.

After all, the LNG language has gathered increasing bipartisan momentum at each stage of the legislative process and the Obama administration has said that it could and would comply with a new statutory deadline (aka an accelerated non-FTA decision-making timeline) should Congress pass one.

The legislative endgame is near, and all who want to see the U. S. LNG licensing process improved must work towards final resolution this year. Otherwise, Congress must start over from scratch in 2017, since all bills not enacted into law expire when the 114th Congress adjourns sine die.

Let’s not lose any more time. American LNG export projects compete in an increasingly fierce global natural gas market and our regulatory regime should—as much as possible—support and enhance the competitive position of U. S. LNG export companies and the thousands of jobs they create/support.

Reprinted with permission from The Hill Congress Blog

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