House Passes LNG Exports Bill

The House of Representatives passed H.R. 351, the ‘‘LNG Permitting Certainty and Transparency Act’’ earlier today (Wed. Jan. 28) by a recorded vote of 277 to 133. Of the 410 members present and voting, 236 Republicans and 41 Democrats voted for the bill. One Republican and 132 Democrats voted no.

In the White House daily press briefing, WH spokesman Eric Schultz said: “We think the bill is unnecessary. [Consults written statement in briefing book.] The Department of Energy has already taken steps to modernize the LNG export approval process and ensure applications are looked at efficiently and expeditiously. We believe the process is working well and that bill is totally unnecessary.”

The principal objective of the legislation is to expedite final action by the Department of Energy (DOE) on applications for licenses to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) to nations without Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with the United States.

Sponsored by Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH), the bill matches almost word-for-word the text of H.R. 6 (113th Congress), legislation that passed the House overwhelmingly in June 2014 but was never brought up for a vote in the Senate. It is also nearly identical to S. 33, the Barrasso-Heinrich bill described in the last issue of our newsletter. (The main difference is that the Senate bill would set a 45-day deadline.)

During the debate, Johnson said: “The window of opportunity for LNG exports will not remain open indefinitely, so it’s important that Congress act immediately. With the passage of this legislation, even more LNG will be free to go to places that need it the most.”

The summary prepared by the Congressional Research Service of H.R. 351 reads as follows:

H.R. 351 — LNG Permitting Certainty and Transparency Act

Directs the Department of Energy (DOE), for proposals that must also obtain authorization from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or the United States Maritime Administration to site, construct, expand, or operate liquified natural gas (LNG) export facilities, to issue a decision on an application for authorization to export natural gas within 30 days after the later of: (1) the conclusion of the review to site, construct, expand, or operate the LNG facilities required by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA); or (2) the date of enactment of this Act.

Deems any NEPA review to be concluded: (1) 30 days after publication of a required Environmental Impact Statement if the project needs one; (2) 30 days after publication by DOE of a Finding of No Significant Impact if the project needs an Environmental Assessment; and (3) upon a determination by the lead agency that an application is eligible for a categorical exclusion pursuant to regulations under NEPA.

(A “categorical exclusion” under NEPA is a category of actions which do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment and which have been found to have no such effect in procedures adopted by a federal agency in implementing environmental regulations and for which, therefore, neither an Environmental Assessment nor an Environmental Impact Statement is required.)

Confers original and exclusive jurisdiction upon the U.S. Court of Appeals for the circuit in which the export facility under an application will be located over any civil action for the review of: (1) a DOE order regarding the application, or (2) DOE failure to issue a final decision on the application.

Requires the Court, if it finds in a civil action that DOE has failed to issue a final decision on an application, to order DOE to issue one within 30 days.

Requires the Court to set any civil action brought under this Act on the docket, for expedited consideration, as soon as practical after the filing date of the initial pleading.

Amends the Natural Gas Act to set as a condition for approval of any authorization to export LNG that the DOE Secretary require the applicant to disclose publicly the specific destination or destinations of any such authorized LNG exports.

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