GOP Senators, Fueled by Industry Cash, Propose Bill to Expedite Small Scale LNG Exports
By Steve Horn
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) have introduced a bill to fast-track the regulatory process for the export of small-scale liquefied natural gas (LNG).
The bill, titled "Small Scale LNG Access Act," was introduced on Oct. 18 and calls for amending the "Natural Gas Act to expedite approval of exports of small volumes of natural gas." The proposed legislation follows in the footsteps of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) proposed rule which would assume that all U.S. small-scale exports of LNG, with the gas mostly obtained via hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"), is in the "public interest" as defined by the Natural Gas Act.
The public commenting period for the DOE's proposed small-scale LNG rule ended on Oct. 16, with 81 comments posted on Regulations.gov. DOE, alongside the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), oversees the regulatory process for LNG exports and the industry has long complained that the process is too onerous.
"We write in support of the Department of Energy's (DOE) proposed rule to expedite the approval of small-scale exports of natural gas," they wrote. "We appreciate this proposal and the series of steps the Department has taken to decrease burdensome regulations and increase the United States' energy security. The current permitting process for LNG export facilities is expensive, and small-scale projects often are not cost effective under current conditions."
The Rubio-Cassidy bill also calls for small-scale LNG exports to be considered by default in the "public interest," as defined in Section 3(c) of the Natural Gas Act.
'Nothing Small Scale'
Small-scale LNG does not refer necessarily to the actual amount of LNG which will be exported from the site, but rather the size of the tankers carrying the natural gas. Meg Gentle, CEO of Tellurian, said so herself in a March interview.
"So people have started talking about small-scale and mid-scale and we've sort of chuckled at that. As you would imagine, there is nothing small scale about LNG," Gentle said. "It's just making the refrigerator component itself a little bit more modular, repeatable and standardized. But we're still using the largest [General Electric] turbines, the largest storage tanks ever built."
In June, Cassidy also introduced the License Natural Gas (LNG) Now Act, which calls for expedited permitting for conventional large-scale LNG export projects. On the U.S. House side, Cassidy's bill was introduced by U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA), whose district sits in a major planned hub for the LNG industry.
Rubio and Cassidy both represent states which have companies interested in jump-starting the so-called small-scale LNG business. For Rubio, the company Eagle LNG has plans to export LNG from a small-scale facility in Jacksonville, Florida and Carib Energy intends to export LNG from Martin County, Florida. Cassidy's state, meanwhile, is home to Cheniere's Sabine Pass LNG terminal and Tellurian's planned Driftwood LNG site.
Exxon, Koch Connection
In January, Eagle LNG received DOE authorization to export small-scale LNG from its site in Maxville, Florida, in September. Eagle LNG is owned by Ferus, Inc. and financed by Energy & Minerals Group. John Raymond, son of former ExxonMobil CEO Lee Raymond, serves as the CEO and co-founder of the Energy & Minerals Group. Lee Raymond also serves as a senior partner at the firm.
"As a streamlined and nimble operation, we're able to respond quickly to the changing tides within the industry and swiftly develop solutions to any challenge, but the valuable resources and years of experience that Ferus holds give us the ability to turn our visions into realities," Eagle LNG explained of its business model.
"Combining the know-how of the Ferus group of companies with the financial strength and commitment of our sponsor, the Energy & Minerals Group, Eagle LNG is unmatched in its capability to provide solutions to clients considering LNG for fueling and small-scale utility requirements."
In June, Eagle LNG signed an agreement with ExxonMobil and the Jacksonville, Florida-based Crowley Maritime Corporation "to collaborate on the development of LNG as a marine fuel." Crowley also owns Carib Energy, the first company ever to receive a small-scale LNG export permit from the DOE.
"ExxonMobil will provide its technical support and expertise to help the parties carry out safe bunkering operations and sell LNG bunker fuel to vessel operators," explained the press release. "Eagle LNG Partners will supply the LNG and will design, build, and operate small-scale production and storage facilities as well as coordinate land-based LNG transportation. Crowley will provide bunker logistics and ensure safe and reliable operations."
Rubio has taken over $1.1 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry during his U.S. Senate career, which began in 2010. During his 2016 re-election run, Rubio took $10,000 from ExxonMobil, $5,000 from the American Petroleum Institute, $5,000 from Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), $1,000 from Cheniere, and $7,500 from American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM).
Rubio also received $2,700 from Crowley for his 2016 race, while taking $68,340 from Koch Industries throughout his political career, the latter a company which has its own vested interest in small-scale LNG exports. Koch subsidiary Flint Hills Resources received a permit to ship batches of small-scale LNG from the DOE in 2016.
'Unleash American Energy'
Like Rubio, Cassidy also became a senator in 2010 and has taken $62,200 in campaign contributions from Koch Industries throughout his Senate career. Cassidy received $3,500 from Cheniere during his 2016 re-election race, $2,000 from IPAA for his 2010 race, and $5,500 total from Exxon during both of his Senate races.
As another sign of his commitment to the cause, Cassidy asked Perry if the DOE intended to expedite the regulatory process for LNG exports in questions sent to the agency in July regarding its proposed 2017-2018 budget.
In response, DOE affirmed its commitment to LNG and exporting it in a robust way.
"Ultimately, the market will determine how much U.S. LNG export capacity is built and utilized," wrote DOE. "In addition to promptly reviewing LNG export applications as part of our regulatory responsibility, DOE is working with the Administration, industry, other Federal and state government agencies, and our international partners to help U.S. companies maximize opportunities in the global LNG market."
Both Rubio and Cassidy discussed explicitly how the industry will reap the benefits from the move in their respective states in the press release announcing the bill's introduction.
"Expedited approval of small-scale natural gas exports would strengthen an emerging sector of Florida's economy," Rubio stated. "In addition to the economic advantages for Florida, this measure would bolster our existing ties with Caribbean and Latin American nations while ensuring that bad actors in the region, including Cuba and Venezuela, do not reap its benefits."
Cassidy echoed Rubio in discussing how the bill's passage would impact his own state, Louisiana, and the oil and gas industry located within it.
"This bill promotes the growth of American natural gas, creating well-paying jobs with good benefits for hardworking families in Louisiana," said Cassidy. "The faster approval of small-scale natural gas shipments will create American jobs, improve Caribbean energy security, and lower greenhouse gas emissions."
The Trump administration has also made its stance clear on small-scale LNG and its rationale behind the proposed DOE rule.
"The Trump 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. The Department of Energy and this Administration are wholeheartedly committed to strengthening the energy security of the United States and our allies," Perry said in a September press release announcing the proposed rule.
Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.
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Colette Pichon Battle gave a December 2019 TEDWomen Talk on the stark realities of climate change displacement, and people took notice. The video racked up a million views in about two weeks. The attorney, founder, and executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP) advocates for climate justice in communities of color. Confronted with evidence showing how her own South Louisiana coastal home of Bayou Liberty will be lost to flooding in coming years, the 2019 Obama Fellow dedicates herself to helping others still reeling from the impacts of Katrina face the heavy toll that climate change has taken—and will take—on their lives and homelands. Her work focuses on strengthening multiracial coalitions, advocating for federal, state, and local disaster mitigation measures, and redirecting resources toward Black communities across the Gulf South.
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"These are not just wildfires, they are climate fires," Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State, said as he stood amid the charred remains of the town of Malden west of Seattle earlier this month. "This is not an act of God," he added. "This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways."
'These Aren't Wildfires'<p>Sam Ricketts, who led climate policy and strategy for Governor Jay Inslee's 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted on September 11 that "These aren't wildfires. These are #climatefires, driven by fossil fuel pollution."</p><p>"The rate and the strength and the devastation wrought by these disasters are fueled by climate change," Ricketts told DW of fires that have burnt well over 5 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington State, and into neighboring Idaho. </p><p>In a two-day period in early September, Ricketts notes that more of Washington State burned than in almost any entire fire season until now, apart from 2015. </p><p>California, meanwhile, was a tinderbox after its hottest summer on record, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It has been reported as the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth.</p>
<div id="29ad9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8346fe7350e1371d400097cd48bf45a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306969603180879872" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Drought-parched wetlands in South America have been burning for weeks. https://t.co/pjAKdFcKPg #Pantanal https://t.co/ImN2C5vwcp</div> — NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)<a href="https://twitter.com/NASAEarth/statuses/1306969603180879872">1600440810.0</a></blockquote></div><p>As evidenced by Australia's apocalyptic Black Summer of 2019-2020, fires are burning bigger and for longer, with new records set year-on-year. Right now, Brazil's vast and highly biodiverse Pantanal wetlands are suffering from catastrophic fires.</p>
#climatefires Started in Australia<p>Governor Inslee this month invoked the phrase climate fires for arguably the first time in the U.S., according to Ricketts.</p><p>But the term was also used as fires burnt out of control in Australia in late 2019. In the face of a 2000km (more than 1,200 miles) fire front, and government officials and media who <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">played down the link to climate change</a>, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and a friend decided that reference to bushfires was inadequate. </p><p>"We both just said, we've got to start calling them climate fires, that's what they are," the Australian Senator told DW.</p><p>Hanson-Young says scientists have been warning for decades that these would be the effects of global heating. "We've been told these kinds of extreme weather events and destruction is what climate change would look like, and it's right here on our doorstep," she said from her home state of South Australia — where by early September fire warnings had already been issued.</p><p>"Calling them climate fires was making it absolutely crystal clear. It is essential that there's no ambiguity," she said </p><p>Having deliberately invoked the term, Hanson-Young soon started to push it on social media via a #climatefires hashtag. </p>
How to Talk About the Urgency of Global Heating<p>The need to use more explicit language when talking about extreme weather events linked to climate change is part of a broader push to express the urgency of global heating. In 2019, activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that the term "climate change" did not reflect the seriousness of the situation. </p><p>"Can we all now please stop saying 'climate change' and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?" she wrote. </p><p>"Climate change has for a long time been talked about as something that is a danger in the future," said Hansen-Young. "But the consequences are already here. When people hear the word crisis, they understand that something has to happen, that action has to be taken."</p><p><span></span>Some terms are now used in public policy, with state and national governments, and indeed the EU Parliament, declaring an official climate emergency in the last year. </p>
Words That Reflect the Science<p>But while the West Coast governors all fervently link the fires to an unfolding climate crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to avoid any reference to climate. In a briefing about the fires, he responded to overtures by Wade Crowfoot, California's Natural Resources Secretary, to work with the states on the climate crisis by stating: "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch." Crowfoot replied by saying that scientists disagreed. Trump rejoined with "I don't think science knows, actually." </p><p>It was reminiscent of the anti-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic within the Trump administration, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-admits-playing-down-coronavirus-risks/a-54874350" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least publicly</a>. Fossil fuel companies are also benefiting from his disavowal of climate science, with the Trump administration having <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-trumps-paris-climate-accord-exit-isnt-really-a-problem/a-51124958" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pulled out of the Paris Agreement</a> and reopened fossil fuel infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. </p><p>But the science community has responded, with Scientific American magazine endorsing Trump's Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden, the first presidential endorsement in its 175-year history. </p><p>Hanson-Young says the use of explicit language like climate fires has also been important in Australia due to the climate denialism of politicians and the press, especially in publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. As fires burnt out much of Australia's southeast coast, they were commonly blamed on arson — a tactic also recently used in the U.S.</p>
Climate Rhetoric Could Help Decide Election<p>The language of climate has begun to influence the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden labelling President Trump a "climate arsonist."</p><p>Biden is touting a robust climate plan that includes a 2050 zero emissions target and a return to the Paris Agreement. Though lacking the ambition of The New Green Deal, it has been front and center of his policy platform in recent days, at a time when five hurricanes are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast while smoke blanketing the West Coast spreads all the way to the East. </p><p>People are experiencing the climate crisis in a visceral way and almost universally relate to the language of an emergency, says Ricketts. "They know something is wrong."</p>
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