Today, both the House and Senate will hold committee hearings relating to liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports. Both hearings will focus on not only the economic impact but also the increasingly-relevant geopolitical aspects of exporting energy. The House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing will focus on a specific piece of legislation: H.R. 6, the Domestic Prosperity and Global Freedom Act. H.R. 6 would provide expedited processing of all new LNG export applications to the Department of Energy (DOE), and would approve all applications pending in the DOE’s queue as of March 6, 2014.
Like any major infrastructure project, LNG export terminals must run the gauntlet of a long, drawn-out permitting process. One of the earliest steps in the permitting process, a license from DOE, has become a regulatory choke point for LNG exports. Some applicants have been waiting years for a decision, with no end in sight. At DOE’s current pace, some of the applications in the queue could be waiting until 2016 or later before they can move to the next step in the process. While the national interest determination requirement by DOE isn’t itself a problem–we support a process that is open, transparent and objective–the way it’s been carried out is creating a major barrier to free trade and open markets in the area of LNG exports. It also may be running afoul of our international obligations: a recent report by former World Trade Organization (WTO) Appellate Body Chairman James Bacchus, who is testifying before the House today, concluded that the delay by the DOE to issue licenses to export LNG to foreign countries likely constitutes, in and of itself, a violation of our international obligations under the WTO. (He reached the same conclusion for coal export permitting delays.) As the United States leads the world in enforcing global commitments to prevent export restrictions, such as those that China has placed on raw materials and rare earths to the detriment of U.S. industry and workers, we should not ourselves be in violation of those same commitments.
The NAM was founded over 100 years ago to promote open markets and free trade for American manufacturers. In the context of all exports, including those of energy, the NAM fundamentally supports open markets and promotes exports of all products. We believe the market, if allowed to work, will provide equilibrium. For the past year, we’ve called on DOE to speed up its licensing process to provide applicants an up-or-down decision as expeditiously as possible. In recent weeks, the editorial boards of the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and others have called for similar action.
As part of our commitment to exports and free trade, the NAM supports H.R. 6, the Domestic Prosperity and Global Freedom Act. H.R. 6 would put the United States in compliance with its own international obligations under the WTO, and would and help bolster U.S. efforts to eliminate other countries’ export restrictions. H.R. 6 does not impact the economic, environmental or safety studies that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and other agencies are required to conduct, nor does it remove any other regulatory requirement. It would promote the development of infrastructure to allow the export of a product–a principle that manufacturers support.