Eastern European ambassadors call for expedited US LNG export process

Ambassadors to the US from seven Central and Eastern European nations asked US congressional leaders to support legislation that would address the US Department of Energy’s review process and expedite LNG exports to their countries.

Ambassadors from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Slovakia said in their Nov. 14 letter that more US LNG exports would increase liquidity in the global market and create an opportunity for diversification of sources, suppliers, and routes.

“This in turn will contribute to the increased energy security of the region, which for a long time has been dominated by a state-owned entity [that] has been used as a foreign policy tool of one country,” they told Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Ranking Minority Member Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

In an apparent reference to Russia and Gazprom, the diplomats said that Central and Eastern European States inherited from the Cold War a gas pipeline system dominated by a single supplier that did not hesitate to use its position in the region to dictate terms of cooperation. Those countries have made great progress in recent years in creating conditions for alternative supply routes by investing heavily in infrastructure, they said.

Operational LNG terminals in Klaipeda, Lithuania, and Swinoujscie, Poland, have created a real opportunity to import LNG from any direction, including the US, the ambassadors said. “However, the regulatory path for granting the LNG exporting licenses to countries which do not have free trade agreements with the US remains complex,” they said. “It puts a burden on US companies to apply for additional licenses.”

Gas deliveries can currently reach not only the Baltic States and the Visegrad Group countries, but also Ukraine and Southern Europe through crossborder interconnectors, they stated.

LNG exports to countries that have free-trade agreements with the US are automatically considered in the US national interest under current federal law. Exports to non-FTA nations undergo national interest reviews at DOE. There is legislation before the current Congress which would establish time limits for such reviews.

The ambassadors emphasized that LNG imports from the US would reduce their nations’ vulnerability to gas-supply disruptions. They expressed hope that bipartisan support to accelerate the process of issuing LNG export licenses to countries in that area, which has been gaining momentum steadily over the past few years, would be reflected in the lame-duck session of the 114th Congress which got under way on Nov. 14.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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