* Markey-would stop FERC approvals until 2025
* Faces uphill battle in Republican-controlled House
* Sen. Wyden-"time out" needed to assess impact
By Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON, Feb 14 The United States
should bar exports of natural gas to prevent domestic prices
from rising, Democratic Congressman Edward Markey said on
Tuesday while introducing two bills in the House of
Representatives to prevent shipments.
The bills, which would face an uphill battle in the
Republican-controlled House, come as U.S. regulators consider
applications for exports of a glut of natural gas that has
weighed down prices and caused some companies to step back from
In late January, natural gas futures prices plunged to a
10-year low of $2.231 per million British thermal units on the
New York Mercantile Exchange, prompting some producers to
announce drilling cuts. On Tuesday, natural gas was trading
One of the bills from Markey, an outspoken critic of the oil
and gas industry, would prevent the Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission from approving any export terminals until 2025.
The other bill would prevent exports of natural gas drilled
on federal lands, and would ban pipelines crossing federal lands
from carrying natural gas destined for export. It was
cosponsored by Rush Holt, a Democratic congressman from New
"Low natural gas prices are a competitive advantage for
American businesses and a relief for American families, and
exporting our natural gas would eliminate our economic edge and
impose new costs on consumers," Markey said in a statement.
Just a few years ago, U.S. terminals were contemplating
imports of gas because of high prices. But advances in drilling
technology including hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, have
unlocked vast amounts of natural gas.
Americans need time to digest the abrupt "about-face" in the
supply picture, said Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon.
"I think there needs to be something of a time-out to
reflect upon the implications," Wyden told reporters on Tuesday,
stopping short of saying he thinks exports should be banned.
Wyden said he wants to hear more from the Energy Department
about what sort of price increases are foreseen with the
granting of export licenses.
Under U.S. law, exports of natural gas to all but 15
countries that have free trade agreements with the United States
must get approval from the Energy Department, and FERC must
issue a permit for the export terminal.
The Energy Department has approved one export application
from Cheniere Energy for its Sabine Pass terminal, and
other companies including Southern, BG, Dominion
and Sempra have also requested permission.
The department has commissioned a study of the economic
impacts of natural gas exports, expected sometime this spring,
before making further decisions.
Last month, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said
exporting surplus U.S. natural gas could add as much as 9
percent a year to prices of the fuel for consumers and industry
over the next two decades, if all the applications were
Markey has also tried to block exports of oil that would be
carried by TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline, but has
so far been rebuffed in the House.