Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
December 18, 2014

Debate on Natural Gas Exports Bill Won’t Include Provision on U.S. Ships

A bill to speed up exports of American natural gas is on the House floor this week, but thanks to the House Rules Committee, members won’t get to vote on whether to ship those liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports on American-built, American-manned ships.

The Rules Committee on Monday night set the stage for a floor vote on a bill sponsored by Rep. Cory Gardner, the Colorado Republican who is the GOP Senate challenger this fall to Democratic incumbent Mark Udall — a race that The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating puts at “Leans Democratic.”

The House vote on Gardner’s bill gives him election-year visibility as a champion of his state’s energy sector.

Gardner told the Rules Committee meeting Monday night that Eastern European governments have said his bill “is one of their top foreign policy objectives for the United States” as a way to begin freeing themselves from Russian domination of Europe’s natural gas market.

If his bill becomes law, Gardner said, “Russia has no ability to respond with anything other than making a better deal for Ukraine and eastern European importers of Russian gas as they look to the new competition coming from the United States. We need to pass this bill to show that we will be serious in our commitment to our allies.”

LNG export terminals require approval from both the Department of Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Gardner said his bill would require the Department of Energy to make its public interest determination on an application for an LNG export terminal within 30 days “instead of what has been years of delays.” His bill would not change the environmental review by FERC, he said.

The Rules Committee rebuffed California Democrat Rep. John Garamendi’s attempt to turn the vote on Gardner’s bill into a debate on the future of the American shipping industry.

Garamendi offered one amendment to require “any exported LNG to be transported on United States flag vessels” and another to require federal regulators to give priority “to the processing of approvals for LNG facilities that will be supplied with or export liquefied natural gas by United States flag vessels.’’

Garamendi told the panel that “shipbuilding is a strategic national interest” and “the export of this strategic resource beyond North America will require hundreds of LNG tanker ships. These ships should be American-built with American crews….”

On the merits of exporting LNG — whether on U.S. tankers or foreign ones — a group called Industrial Energy Consumers of America denounced Gardner’s bill saying, “residential consumers and voters have no idea what is about to happen to their cooling and heating bills once LNG export shipments commence. Once they know, members of Congress who voted for this legislation will be held accountable.”

The group also opposes a Udall bill to speed up LNG exports — which is cosponsored by two other Democrats from energy-producing who are up for re-election this November — Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska.

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