* Energy Dept. faces decision on natgas exports
* Sen. Wyden to Chu: Explain how rules will be established
By Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON, Oct 23 (Reuters) - The U.S. Energy Department needs to explain how it will determine whether to allow more exports of the nation’s bountiful supplies of natural gas, Senator Ron Wyden, a top Democrat on the Senate Energy Committee, said on T ues day.
Wyden, who is in line to be the next chairman of the Senate panel if Democrats hold the Senate after the Nov. 6 elections, asked Energy Secretary Steven Chu to explain “the actual decision-making criteria” that will be used to rule on applications to export liquefied natural gas, or LNG.
“I request an all-inclusive description of the factors that DOE will consider in determining whether to approve a supplier’s authority to export LNG, and what factors DOE will consider in revoking such authority,” Wyden wrote in a letter he sent Chu on Tuesday.
The United States has been flooded with natural gas thanks to horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” technology that has helped drillers tap supplies trapped in shale rock formations.
Some companies want to export the surplus, which they say would help stabilize prices for producers without unduly raising prices for consumers.
Natural gas exports to all but a handful of countries with free trade agreements with the United States require approval from the Energy Department.
So far, the government has approved exports from one project, Cheniere’s Sabine Pass terminal, a 2 billion cubic feet per day project located in western Cameron Parish, Louisiana.
The department has put off decisions on other applications pending a study it commissioned to evaluate the economic impact of LNG exports, now expected to be released by the end of the year.
Wyden said the DOE should explain how it will consider the impact of exports on domestic supplies and prices, electricity prices, jobs and manufacturing, the economy and air pollution.