WASHINGTON Aug 14 The U.S. Energy Department
has finalized a plan to revamp its process for approving
liquefied natural gas exports, and as originally proposed the
changes eliminate conditional approvals for LNG projects.
Beginning Thursday, the department will only issue final
rulings on whether exports are in the public interest after the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or another authorized
agency, has completed an environmental review of the project.
The move will likely shift focus from the Energy Department,
which has been criticized for moving too slowly, to the more
costly FERC process, which assesses the safety and environmental
impacts of LNG export facilities.
Making an export application with the DOE costs about
$20,000 but companies pay up to $100 million to complete the
FERC process, an investment that separates serious projects from
those without the financial backing to actually construct what
are often multibillion-dollar facilities.
The new policy will not affect companies that have already
received conditional approvals, such as Dominion's Cove
Point project, Sempra's Cameron LNG project and Leucadia
National Corp's Oregon LNG project.
Cheniere's Corpus Christi project, which is due to
receive its final environmental review from FERC in October, is
the first facility in line to get a permit from the Energy
Department under the new process.
The administration has been under pressure from backers of
LNG exports, including many Republican lawmakers and some
Democrats from oil and gas states, to streamline the approval
process for LNG projects.
The changes were originally announced in May and were
subject to a public comment period. More on the changes can
found here: bit.ly/1sZ3y4i
(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Chris Reese)