Ohio Congressman wants to make it easier to export liquid natural gas

By a 277-133 vote, the House passed a bill introduced by Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, that would expedite the approval process for liquefied national gas export permits.

Johnson said the process has been mired in bureaucratic hurdles. To date, according to his office, the Department of Energy has only issued final decisions on five of the 27 non-Free Trade Agreement applications it has received since 2010.

He said that fact has been discouraging for companies that want to export liquid natural gas. Many end up sinking millions of dollars into equipment to export their product, only to find themselves stuck in a bureaucratic limbo.

“We want the Department of Energy to give companies some certainty that if they make the investment in their company and pass the hurdles, that they’re going to get a favorable determination from the Department of Energy,” he said.

Among the bill’s key backers is Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, chair of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, who said many of his colleagues in the assembly have long called for more diversified sources of natural gas. Turner, beginning in 2013, has introduced multiple bills focused on streamlining the regulatory process to make it easier for U.S. producers to export liquid natural gas.

Russia, currently the largest supplier of natural gas to Europe, has used natural gas pricing to “punish Western-leaning governments with higher prices,” Turner said.

“Regardless of where U.S. natural gas is shipped, increasing supply in the global market will help provide international customers with greater choice and leverage to negotiate prices,” he said.

The bill passed on a largely party-line vote, with all Ohio House Republicans and Democrat Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, supporting it.Reps. Joyce Beatty, D-Jefferson Township, Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, and Marcia Fudge, D-Cleveland, opposed it.

Johnson and Ryan are co-founders of the LNG Export Working Group.

According to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, there are 110 liquid natural gas facilities, but only five have approved export terminals. They’re in Louisiana, Texas and Maryland, but all are either under construction, or approved but not yet under construction, according to FERC. There also is one approved export terminal in Alaska, according to the agency.

A similar bill passed the House last year but did not make it through the Senate. Johnson said the bill is scheduled for hearings in the now-GOP-controlled Senate, so he feels more optimistic about its chances.

Johnson is the second Ohioan this week to see one of his measures pass the House. On Tuesday, Beatty’s bill aimed at fighting child sex trafficking passed the House 411-0.

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