(Adds link to factbox on LNG projects; clarifies proposal on
revamp of LNG review process, paragraph 4)
By Timothy Gardner
WASHINGTON, July 31 The U.S. Energy Department
on Thursday approved Oregon LNG to export liquefied natural gas,
as the Obama administration works through applications to export
fuel from the domestic drilling boom to markets in Asia and
Oregon LNG, which is controlled by Leucadia National Corp
, has been authorized by the department to export up to
1.25 billion cubic feet per day of the fuel for 20 years. It
hopes to begin exporting LNG in 2017.
The Astoria, Oregon-based project still needs approval from
the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which will
review its environmental impact.
The DOE's review of the Oregon project was initiated before
the Obama administration shook up its LNG review process in May.
Under its proposed revamp, the DOE will no longer issue
conditional approvals of LNG projects.
Instead, the DOE would decide whether a project is in the
national interest only after the FERC issues a final
environmental review. The change is expected to benefit
companies that have strong financial backing for their projects.
The DOE has given the green light to three LNG projects this
year, and Oregon LNG could be one of last to get initial
approval from the department under the old system.
In March, as the Obama administration was under pressure to
approve projects amid Russia's aggression toward Ukraine, the
DOE approved Veresen Inc's Jordan Cove plant. Weeks
earlier it approved Sempra's Cameron project.
On Wednesday, the FERC approved construction of the Freeport
LNG Development LP's LNG project in Texas, the third project
gaining full U.S. approval to ship the fuel to countries with
which Washington does not have a free trade agreement.
The first of those, Cheniere's Sabine Pass plant in
Louisiana, is expected to begin shipping LNG next year.
Senator Lisa Murkowski, from energy-producing state Alaska
and the top Republican on the Energy Committee, welcomed both
recent approvals. She said she would keep a "close eye" on the
new review system to "make sure the progress we've seen doesn't
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Chris Reese, Diane
Craft and Dan Grebler)