For many years the fight over liquified natural gas centered around how the United States could import it. Now the fight is about shipping it overseas.
The House passed a bill yesterday to make exporting easier. U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., is a sponsor of House Resolution 6. Mark Udall, the Democrat facing Gardner in this November's U.S. Senate race, is sponsoring a similar bill in the Senate.
Gardner's bill asks the Department of Energy to review applications for export terminals within 30 days. Right now, energy officials don't have a deadline so if the bill becomes law, it is expected that permits would move forward faster. Udall's version requires a 45-day review deadline.
Both bills came in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Throughout the conflict this spring and summer, Russia has threatened to cut supplies to Ukraine.
"Russia's use of its natural resources as a weapon against the people of Ukraine shows why we need to accelerate U.S. liquefied natural gas exports," Udall said in a statement to Colorado Public Radio. "And I have been proud to lead the bipartisan effort in Congress to ensure Colorado's natural gas resources help create jobs and strengthen global security. This issue -- and the energy security of our allies and trading partners -- is critically important, and I am partnering with the chair of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, who is a co-sponsor of my bill, to get this done."
Gardner argues that U.S. natural gas could help countries like Ukraine, making them less dependent on Russia, and stabilize the gas situation throughout the European Union.
"Our friends and allies are desperately looking for help and they know that the mere passage of this bill will provide them with relief and of course more relief when they actually get the LNG [liquified natural gas]," Gardner says. "To oppose exporting liquid natural gas from this country would be like hanging up on 911 phone call from our friends and allies."
Critics aren’t buying this argument. They say lawmakers are using the Ukrainian crisis as an excuse to move exports forward and allow energy officials to rubberstamp exports. They worry that exports could lead to higher energy bills for U.S. consumers and manufacturers. Some environmental advocacy organizations worry that an export market will drive more fracking. which they equate with air and water pollution.
Some residents who live near proposed export terminals worry about potential leaks at ports. If gas were to escape from a storage tank, it would vaporize immediatelly and it could create a giant fireball. In 1944, there was a small leak from a tank in Cleveland. The resulting explosion lit 70 homes on fire and killed 128 people. "Manhole covers launched skyward as jets of fire erupted from deep sewer lines," The Associated Press reported at the time. "One manhole cover was found several miles east of the explosion."