(Adds comments from analyst, lawmaker, background)
By Ayesha Rascoe
WASHINGTON, March 24 The Obama administration
gave the green light on Monday for exports of liquefied natural
gas (LNG) from a plant to be built in Oregon, the second such
authorization this year, as pressure intensifies on the White
House to use the U.S. energy bounty to respond to the political
crisis in Ukraine.
It is unclear whether the approval of exports from Veresen
Inc's Jordan Cove plant, the first LNG-export plant
permitted on the U.S. West Coast, was accelerated by political
tension related to Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea
The other LNG project to get the go-ahead on exports this
year was approved by the Energy Department nearly six weeks ago.
That's a gap between project approvals that's largely in line
with the average interval of about eight weeks that has
prevailed since Washington resumed issuing LNG export permits
The Jordan Cove approval did come faster than the 12-week
interval between approvals of the previous project, Sempra's
Cameron plant in Louisiana, and the one that preceded
A total of seven permits for sales to nonfree-trade
agreement nations such as Japan and India have been issued, six
of those in past 10 months.
The Jordan Cove project is set to deliver LNG to buyers in
Asia, not Europe, where many lawmakers hope U.S. LNG would
undermine Moscow's influence in natural gas markets.
While the shipments from Jordan Cove would not be directed
at Europe, analysts and industry groups said any gas exports
from the United States could help increase flexibility in gas
In its authorization of up to 0.8 billion cubic feet a day
of gas exports from Jordan Cove, the Energy Department
specifically argued that the U.S. oil and gas boom has improved
energy security in Europe and Asia by freeing up gas that would
have been imported by United States.
The department said shipping U.S. gas overseas could also
help improve security for many U.S. allies and trading partners.
Jordan Cove's application brings total U.S.-approved LNG
exports up to 9.27 bcf a day, once the plants are constructed
and working at full capacity.
"The order clearly explains how the administration believes
U.S. LNG exports can lead to enhanced diversity of supply in
global gas markets that would undermine the leverage of monopoly
suppliers like Russia," said Jason Bordoff, director at the
Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University.
The Jordan Cove project still needs approval from the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission before construction can
begin, and could be several years away from actually shipping
Lawmakers have called on the Obama administration to help
U.S. allies reduce dependence on Russian gas by speeding up the
processing of more than two dozen applications seeking
permission to ship U.S. gas abroad.
Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner
welcomed the latest approval, but said one approval does not
signal that the administration is taking a new approach to its
"Many more long-delayed proposals to export U.S. natural gas
remain in limbo, and they must be approved if we're going to
weaken Russia's dominance in many foreign energy markets,"
Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said in a statement.
Jordan Cove's conditional export license comes ahead of
several congressional hearings scheduled to examine the LNG
export issue this week.
The House energy committee on Tuesday will weigh a bill
introduced by Colorado Republican Cory Gardner that would
immediately approve export applications already filed with the
Energy Department and mandate approval of future proposals of
exports to World Trade Organization members.
Currently only gas exports to countries with free trade
agreements with the United States are automatically deemed to be
in the public interest.
(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Ros Krasny, Bernadette
Baum and Peter Galloway)