* House oversight panel to hold LNG export hearing on
* DOE has not taken position LNG export report-official
* Lawmakers divided over need for export limits
By Ayesha Rascoe
WASHINGTON, March 19 The U.S. Energy Department
will tell lawmakers on Tuesday that it is wading through nearly
200,000 comments it received in response to a report on the
impact of natural gas exports, as the debate over sending more
U.S. gas abroad continues.
Released in December, the department-sponsored report gave a
resounding endorsement of the economic benefits of exporting
liquefied natural gas, saying the more exports, the better.
But a vocal contingent of manufacturers and heavy industrial
companies, as well as environmentalists, have blasted the
report, by NERA Economic Consulting. They have called on the
government to revisit the study using updated data and different
Acting Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy Christopher
Smith will testify to lawmakers that the department has not
taken a position on the NERA study or an earlier analysis by the
Energy Information Administration.
"DOE continues to review the comments that have been
received... and will address those comments when it issues
decisions on the applications," Smith said in prepared testimony
to the House oversight committee.
Smith's testimony was released ahead of the committee's
hearing on LNG exports scheduled for 3 p.m. EDT on Tuesday.
The last comment period on the export report wrapped up on
Feb. 25. The department said it received more than 188,000
initial comments and about 2,700 additional comments.
The shale gas bonanza has led to a natural gas glut in the
United States, where production has quickly begun to outpace
demand. Gas drillers argue that development will be curtailed if
they are not able to tap into foreign markets beyond countries
that have free trade agreements with the United States.
Nearly 20 projects have sought permission from the Energy
Department to export gas to new markets.
In his testimony, Smith reiterated that the department plans
to make decisions on a case-by-case basis.
Lawmakers have been divided on the issue of LNG exports,
with some, including Senate Energy Committee head Ron Wyden of
Oregon, raising concerns that the nation risks trading away its
energy security advantage if too many exports are allowed.
Still, more than 100 lawmakers in the House of
Representatives have thrown their support behind the NERA export
Ohio Congressmen Tim Ryan, a Democrat, and Bill Johnson, a
Republican, formed a working group last week backing increased
LNG exports. The working group will hold meetings and keep
members informed of developments on the export issue, the