Warner pushes expedited response to natural gas export applications
In response to the crisis in Ukraine, U.S. Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.) today announced bipartisan proposals to expedite the U.S. Department of Energy’s review of applications to export U.S. natural gas.
Sens. Warner and Hoeven say that the Obama administration should move quickly to evaluate more than 20 pending natural gas export applications as a way to counteract Russian President Vladimir Putin’s influence over Ukraine and Europe, which depends on russia for about one-third of its natural gas needs. The senators also are recommending a strategic review of U.S. energy policies, a joint U.S.-European Union initiative on energy security, and other efforts to promote greater energy productivity in Ukraine.
Currently, U.S. companies can export to countries which have a free trade agreement with the U.S., but other applications require a case-by-case review by the Energy Department. That has resulted in approval for just six projects so far, and more than 20 other export applications still are pending at the Energy Department
“For the first time in a generation, America is in a position to export energy, and acting strategically to increase our natural gas exports will weaken Putin’s grip on energy supplies for europe and Ukraine,”Sen. Warner said. “We’re suggesting a comprehensive, bipartisan approach that will have a positive impact in the near-term and the longer-term on the energy security of Ukraine and the EU.”
“This weekend, I and a bipartisan group of senators met with officials in Ukraine to get a good understanding of what is happening on the ground there,” Sen. Hoeven said. “It is clear from what I saw that we need to work with Ukraine and the European Union to forge a long-term and short-term strategy that includes tough sanctions to deter Russian aggression, as well as an energy plan that helps the people of Ukraine and the European Union become more energy secure and less dependent on Russian energy.”
Specifically, Sens. Warner and Hoeven are calling on the Obama administration to take the following actions:
· Direct the Department of Energy to accelerate the natural gas export permit process, approving the pending permits within 60 days, or provide specific reasons why it cannot approve individual permit applications.
· Conduct a strategic review of U.S. energy policies, and expand the group of nations that currently qualify for U.S. energy exports beyond those with free trade agreements to include our NATO allies, the European Union, Ukraine, and any others that are in the national security interest of the United States. The review could include examining the potential of additional investments in facilities capable of liquefying natural gas.
· Launch a joint U.S.-European Union initiative on energy security at next week’s US-EU summit in Brussels, with specific near-term and future deliverables. About 53 percent of Russian gas exports to europe pass through Ukraine, and europe depends on russia for 30 percent of its natural gas — a number that has increased in recent years.
· Help Ukraine implement a significant energy productivity initiative. U.S businesses have developed many off-the-shelf technologies that can greatly reduce energy waste and promote greater efficiency, which will reduce Ukraine’s energy needs.
The senators will hold a media conference call tomorrow at a time to be determined to discuss their effort. The Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee is scheduled to conduct a hearing on gas exports next week.