* Debate grows on whether LNG exports could be speeded up
* Pressing for expedited permitting could slow process
* Representative Gardner introduced bill to expedite permits
(Adds bill introduced to speed up exports, analyst comment)
By Timothy Gardner
WASHINGTON, March 6 U.S. Senator Edward Markey
introduced a bill on Thursday to make the Obama administration's
approval of liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports more
complicated, saying expedited permits will not help Ukraine and
Europe manage Russia's control of fuel supply.
As Russia has tightened its grip on Ukraine's Crimea region
this week, a slew of Republican U.S. lawmakers, including House
Speaker John Boehner, have called on the Obama administration to
speed up LNG approvals in order to protect Ukraine and Europe
from Moscow's control over natural gas shipments via pipeline.
Russia supplies about 60 percent of Ukraine's gas and
crimped supply to Ukraine and Europe most recently in 2009 and
The American Natural Gas Security and Consumer Protection
Act would require the Department of Energy to weigh the impacts
of proposed exports on consumers, the economy, and foreign
The bill sponsored by Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat,
faces an uphill battle in both the Senate and the Republican-led
House of Representatives. But it is evidence of a growing debate
on whether exports of gas and crude from the U.S. energy boom
can be used as diplomatic tools to fend off moves by Russian
President Vladimir Putin.
Later on Thursday, Representative Cory Gardner, a Colorado
Republican, and other members of the House Energy and Commerce
Committee introduced a bill to expedite the export of LNG to
Ukraine and other Eastern European countries.
An energy policy analyst said proponents of fast-tracking
LNG exports need to be careful lest they unintentionally trigger
a new rule making by the administration that could slow the
"Changing the process midstream may provide the
administration an unintended opportunity to re-evaluate its
current strategy," Whitney Stanco of Guggenheim Securities said
in a note to clients.
The Department of Energy has approved six rounds of LNG
exports since 2011, and only one has full federal permits.
The approvals total some 8.5 billion cubic feet per day of
LNG, or more than the 6 bcf per day of gas Russia exports
through pipelines through the Ukraine to Europe.
More than 20 projects have applied to export U.S. LNG. But
broad shipments are not expected to begin until at least 2017
because, even after permits are granted, equipment and docks
costing billions of dollars have to be built.
Markey, who is chairman of the Foreign Relations
subcommittee with jurisdiction over international energy
security, said that the U.S. government does not control where
private companies sell LNG. There is strong demand for U.S. LNG
in Japan and India, which unlike Europe, have little access to
gas sent via pipelines.
"We should not give away the domestic economic and national
security rewards of our natural gas boom, and then just hope
that the market reduces the risk of international conflicts,"
Markey said in a release.
"Using this crisis as an excuse to rapidly and massively
expand exports of America's natural gas won't help Ukraine now,"
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner, Editing by Franklin Paul and