The Trump administration is trying to work around public interest review requirements for liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities, making it easier for fossil companies to gain approval for “small-scale” developments.
The administration “is focused on finding ways to unleash American energy and providing a reliable and environmentally friendly fuel to our trading partners who face unique energy infrastructure challenges,” Energy Secretary Rick Perry said, in a release issued the day before the Labour Day weekend. “The Department of Energy and this administration are wholeheartedly committed to strengthening the energy security of the United States and our allies.”
In practice, that means promoting projects that involve slightly smaller LNG tankers, operating on shorter-term, more flexible contracts than the massive LNG terminals on the U.S. coasts. “The term refers to the direct use of liquefied natural gas in its liquid form, as opposed to the traditional model of regasification and subsequent introduction into the gas transmission grid,” consultants at PricewaterhouseCoopers explained in July.
Now, DOE is proposing to exempt “small-scale” projects from one of the core principles at the heart of the regulatory review process.
“Section 3(a) of the Natural Gas Act centres around the ‘public interest’ regulatory review that LNG export terminals undergo, a process overseen by the DOE,” DeSmog Blog explains. “If the agency does not see the proposed LNG export terminal as fitting within the ‘public interest’—which is almost never the case,” the project “does not receive a permit from the DOE.”
The revised rule, on which comments close October 16, bakes in the assumption “that small-scale natural gas exports are consistent with the public interest after considering all relevant factors, including the domestic need for the small volumes of natural gas to be exported and the security of domestic natural gas supplies.”
DeSmog notes that most U.S. LNG originates with fracked natural gas from shale fields in different parts of the country. “Since the Obama administration opened the floodgates for LNG exports from the U.S., LNG has been exported at record levels,” now exceeding the country’s natural gas imports for the first time in six decades.