In May 2014, the United States government announced intentions to accelerate the review process for LNG exports. The decision came when tensions were rising among Russia and the rest of Europe regarding its involvement in Ukraine. Europe threatened sanctions and Russia warned of cutting off supplies, but there was a major problem: the sides are mutually dependent on each other. In fact, Russia supplied 30% of all European gas needs in 2013, and a cut-off of any kind would leave Europe strained for energy and Russia strained in its bank account. There would, however, be a viable hole in the energy market.
In order to fill the potential void, the United States rearranged its review for LNG exports by enforcing time limits and simplifying the approval process. The new streamlined act is pushing for a decision from the Department of Energy within 30 days, which begins after the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission completes its environmental review.
Below is a timeline of events outlining developments within the last few months.
- March 6: H.R.6 Bill proposed to House of Representatives, requesting LNG trade be expanded to World Trade Organization countries. The U.S. currently only ships LNG to countries it shares a Free Trade Agreement with. The same day, the U.S. government imposes sanctions on individuals involved with the escalating Russia/Crimea violence. At the time, only one American LNG plant is under construction and six others have been granted approval for construction.
- April 6: Pro-Russia activists storm government buildings in Ukraine. Russia denies involvement.
- May 15: FERC says LNG plants in Cove Point (TX) and Downeast (ME) would pose little environmental harm. Final approval for both is pending.
- May 29: U.S. government proposes new LNG review measures.
- June 19: H.R. 6 Bill is revised; imposes DOE time review limit of 90 days. Cameron LNG project in Louisiana granted approval by FERC.
- June 23: H.R. 6 Bill, with competition from another bill, is revised again, proposing DOE limits of 30 days.
- June 25: H.R. 6 Bill passes through the House on 266-150 vote.
- July 29: U.S. imposes more sanctions on Russia, targeting its banks and oil companies.
- July 30: FERC grants approval to Freeport (TX) LNG project – the second project approved in the last 6 weeks and third approval overall.
- July 31: DOE approves construction of LNG plant in Oregon – the first on the west coast.
- September 10: DOE grants final approval to Cameron LNG plant – exactly 90 days after FERC approval. A group of companies also submit a pre-filing for a large LNG plant in Alaska.
Sabine Pass, currently the only American LNG plant under construction, is scheduled to begin exporting LNG in 2015.
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