House Republicans Add Pressure for Gas Exports

But leaders of a key committee are still mulling a legislative strategy for achieving their goal.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), Chairman of the Energy and Commerce committee, is interviewed in his office in Washington, DC.
©2013 Richard A. Bloom
Amy Harder
Add to Briefcase
Amy Harder
Feb. 4, 2014, 10:25 a.m.

Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers on the House En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee are ur­ging Pres­id­ent Obama to speed up his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ap­prov­al of nat­ur­al-gas ex­ports. But without a le­gis­lat­ive plan to ac­com­plish their goal — at least not yet — the ques­tion arises: Will their pres­sure make any dif­fer­ence?

“We’d like to think the En­ergy De­part­ment can make ma­jor pro­gress in the bal­ance of the year,” said En­ergy and Com­merce Chair­man Fred Up­ton at a brief­ing Tues­day an­noun­cing a new staff re­port on the eco­nom­ic and geo­pol­it­ic­al be­ne­fits of ex­port­ing more nat­ur­al gas. “And if not, we would look at a num­ber of op­tions to try to, quote, help them achieve that goal in the fu­ture.”

But later in the brief­ing, Up­ton con­ceded: “We don’t have a draft bill in our pock­et.”¦ Our le­gis­lat­ive cal­en­dar is short. We have a lot of things on the agenda, and to really mar­shal a bill through the House and Sen­ate this year is some­what dif­fi­cult.”

Up­ton de­scribed the com­mit­tee’s pres­sure as a “friendly shot across the bow” for the En­ergy De­part­ment, which is re­view­ing a list of more than 20 ap­plic­a­tions to ex­port nat­ur­al gas to coun­tries that are not free-trade part­ners of the United States. It has ap­proved five such ap­plic­a­tions over the past couple of years.

Up­ton did say that one op­tion for le­gis­lat­ive ac­tion could be to get a “time frame for them to take ac­tion,” al­though he didn’t elab­or­ate on what that would mean or when and if that would oc­cur.

Nat­ur­al-gas pro­duc­tion in the United States has bal­looned in re­cent years thanks to new drilling tech­no­logy that can tap in­to hard rock-shale form­a­tions in places like Pennsylvania and Texas. The U.S. was a ma­jor im­port­er of nat­ur­al gas up un­til a few years ago, and the En­ergy In­form­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion pre­dicts the U.S. will be a net ex­port­er of nat­ur­al gas by 2020. The power to de­cide how much nat­ur­al gas is ex­por­ted, which is gov­erned by a 1938 law, lies with­in the ad­min­is­tra­tion. That leaves Con­gress mostly on the side­lines of one of the biggest en­ergy is­sues con­front­ing the coun­try, even if the rhet­or­ic sug­gests oth­er­wise.

“This re­port lays out quite clearly the ad­vant­ages in do­ing this,” said En­ergy and Power Sub­com­mit­tee Chair­man Ed Whit­field, R-Ky. “If the De­part­ment of En­ergy is not will­ing to act, our com­mit­tee in Con­gress is will­ing to act to help ex­ped­ite this. We do ex­pect — hope — the DOE will start ex­ped­it­ing this pro­cess.”

The one piece of le­gis­la­tion pending on this is­sue doesn’t seem to have the full sup­port of Up­ton and Whit­field to move it through the com­mit­tee. Rep. Mike Turn­er, R-Ohio, has sponsored a bill that would ex­ped­ite nat­ur­al-gas ex­ports to mem­ber coun­tries of the North At­lantic Treaty Or­gan­iz­a­tion, which in­cludes many East­ern European na­tions hungry for cheap U.S. nat­ur­al gas. Sen. John Bar­rasso, R-Wyo., has in­tro­duced a sim­il­ar bill in the up­per cham­ber.

“We were thrilled to see [Turn­er] in­tro­duce this bill,” Whit­field said, but he ad­ded: “We think it’s an even broad­er is­sue than that. We wouldn’t just con­fine it to one geo­graph­ic­al area of the world.”

Up­ton in­dic­ated it was im­port­ant sym­bol­ic­ally. “It’s a sig­nal hold­er that there is in­terest,” Up­ton said.

Up­ton said he will be sit­ting down in the com­ing weeks with Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who is ex­pec­ted to be­come chair­wo­man of the Sen­ate En­ergy and Nat­ur­al Re­sources Com­mit­tee, to talk about this is­sue.

“There is a real in­terest on both sides of the aisle to see this oc­cur,” Up­ton said.

In­deed, Landrieu is one of the biggest sup­port­ers of in­creased nat­ur­al-gas ex­ports, and the next ap­plic­a­tion in line for ap­prov­al at the En­ergy De­part­ment is in Louisi­ana.

What We're Following See More »
“HOLY HELL TO PAY” IF TRUMP FIRES A.G.
Sen. Graham Supporting Sessions
7 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Sen. Lindsay Graham said he is '100 percent behind' embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and said there would be 'holy hell to pay' if President Donald Trump fires him. Graham also said that if the president went after special prosecutor Robert Mueller, who’s directing the investigation into possible contacts between Trump’s circle and Russia, that could be the 'beginning of the end of the Trump presidency, unless Mueller did something wrong.'"

Source:
AMiDST COMMS STAFF SHAKEUP
Sanders New WH Press Secretary
8 hours ago
THE LATEST

"With little pomp or circumstance, Sarah Huckabee Sanders stepped up to the briefing room podium and got straight to business Friday, reading announcements about "Made in America Week" and a new executive order on defense. Minutes later, newly minted communications director Anthony Scaramucci announced she was formally taking over as White House press secretary. In the aftermath of a chaotic communications staff shakeup at the White House last week, there was little attention paid to a new milestone as Sanders assumed the role."

Source:
JOINT CHIEFS TO KEEP POLICY UNTIL GIVEN DIRECTIONS
No Instructions to Pentagon, No Change in Transgender Policy
9 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The highest ranking military officer in the country said that the military’s transgender policy won’t actively change until President Trump sends specific directions to the Pentagon. 'There will be no modifications to the current policy until the president’s direction has been received by the secretary of defense and the secretary has issued implementation guidance,' Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford wrote in a letter."

Source:
TO INVICTUS GAMES IN CANADA
FLOTUS First Trip Solo
9 hours ago
THE LATEST
SCARAMUCCI INSINUATED PRIEBUS LEAKED INFO
Two of Trump’s Top Advisors Feuding
9 hours ago
THE LATEST

"A long-simmering feud between two of President Trump’s top advisers reached a boiling point Thursday, as White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci publicly insinuated that chief of staff Reince Priebus is a leaker."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login