* DOE needs renewed sense of urgency on exports-letter
* Few lawmakers had taken up LNG export issue
* Lawmakers say U.S. risks falling behind Australia, Canada
By Ayesha Rascoe
WASHINGTON, June 29 U.S. lawmakers representing
states rich in shale gas called for the Obama administration to
expedite approval of liquefied natural gas exports on Friday,
mounting the first real push in support of gas exports on
A bipartisan coalition of 21 lawmakers in the House of
Representatives said the Obama administration needs to move
forward with its review of companies looking to export LNG.
"We urge you to bring a renewed sense of urgency to the
approval process," the group said in a letter to Energy
Secretary Steven Chu.
Until now, lawmakers have mostly stayed on the sidelines
regarding the issue of selling gas abroad, a prospect that has
come to the forefront due to the booming U.S. natural gas
sector, but potentially pits manufacturers against the oil and
The few lawmakers that had been vocal about exports,
including Congressman Edward Markey and Senator Ron Wyden,
raised concerns that the United States might be at risk of
trading away its newfound energy security advantage and raising
prices for consumers.
Drilling innovations have allowed companies to tap vast
shale gas reserves in places not traditionally associated with
oil and gas production, such as Pennsylvania and Ohio. The rapid
expansion has also led to a gas glut that has pushed gas prices
down to levels producers say are unsustainable.
"One answer to the growing supply and demand imbalance is to
allow American producers to capture a share of a growing global
LNG market," the lawmakers said in their letter.
The letter in support of exports was spearheaded by Ohio
congressmen Bill Johnson, a Republican, and Tim Ryan, a
"We're certainly encouraged to see Congress weighing in on
the issue at the Department of Energy," said Bill Cooper, head
of the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas, a trade group for the
industry. "We hope it's the start of a groundswell of support."
Critics of exports argue cheap gas prices have helped spur a
manufacturing resurgence that is threatened by moves to sell
U.S. gas to overseas. Dow Chemical has argued that the
government should not allow unlimited gas exports.
The Obama administration, which must approve exports to all
but a handful of countries with free trade agreements, is
weighing about eight LNG export applications from companies,
including Dominion Resources and Southern Co.
The department approved exports from just one project,
Cheniere Energy's Sabine Pass terminal. After that
approval, the department said it would wait on the results from
a study of the economic implications of exports before acting on
While the study was initially due out in March, the
department has pushed back its release, saying the report will
come out some time this summer.
In their letter to Chu, the lawmakers bemoaned the "stalled"
approval process, warning that the United States could fall
behind countries like Australia and Canada that are also moving
ahead with plans to export gas.
Still, the lawmakers urged the department to carefully
monitor market conditions to protect manufacturers' access to
affordable natural gas.