* Report to be completed by end of year
* Likely pushes decision past the U.S. election
* This is a complicated analysis - dept official
By Ayesha Rascoe
WASHINGTON, Sept 17 The Obama administration on
Monday once again delayed release of a report on expanding
liquefied natural gas exports, likely pushing beyond the
election a decision on the potentially contentious issue of
sending U.S. gas abroad.
Commissioned by the Energy Department to examine the
economic impact of LNG exports, the report by an unidentified
third-party contractor is now expected to be completed by the
end of the year.
Any decision on natural gas exports will likely be made by
the victor in the Nov. 6 presidential election - either
President Barack Obama or his Republican challenger, Mitt
The department, which has said it will not make any decision
on allowing further LNG exports until the analysis is completed,
had previously pledged to release the report by late summer.
"The Department of Energy takes its statutory responsibility
to make public interest determinations on natural gas export
applications very seriously and is committed to taking the time
necessary to get the decisions right," the department said in a
It was the second delay of the report, which was initially
expected in March.
"This is a complicated economic analysis assessing a dynamic
market," a department official said regarding the postponed
report. "We'll release the report once it's complete."
Natural gas exports to all but a handful of countries with
Free Trade Agreements with the United States require approval
from the department.
After years of projections that the United States would
increasingly need to rely on foreign sources for natural gas,
advances in drilling techniques have led to a boom in shale gas
production that has put the country in a position to export
But manufacturers and some lawmakers have raised concerns
that exports could increase energy costs at home and undercut
"For members of Congress seeking reelection, LNG exports may
be an issue with two wrong sides," ClearView Energy Partners
said in research note on Monday.
Support for exports could leave politicians open to
accusations of raising natural gas prices, while opposition
could lead to charges of failing to support oil and gas jobs,
the research note said.
As a compromise, the Obama administration may be considering
capping exports at 6 to 7.4 billion cubic feet initially,
The department has approved exports from just one project so
far, Cheniere Energy's Sabine Pass terminal.
After that approval, the Obama administration put LNG export
applications from companies such as Dominion Resources and
Sempra Energy on hold pending the outcome of the
"It certainly does not come as a surprise that the report
has been delayed yet again," said Bill Cooper, president of the
Center for Liquefied Natural Gas (CLNG), an industry trade
group. "However, CLNG is disappointed in the news."