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May 02, 2017

King Introduces Bill to Protect Maine Consumers, Businesses from Price Hikes Driven by Shortsighted Proposals to Export Natural Gas

Legislation would ensure Energy Department considers impact on Maine people and businesses as it evaluates application to export natural gas

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As energy companies continue their push to expand the export of natural gas, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) today introduced legislation to ensure that any exports would not hurt people or businesses across Maine by jeopardizing America’s competitive advantage and driving up energy prices.

More specifically, the Natural Gas Consumer Protection Act would require the Department of Energy (DOE) to consider the effect that any natural gas export proposal would have on domestic prices and employment, regional impacts, and any impact on U.S. industrial competitiveness. Currently, DOE has a limited number of considerations when evaluating applications.

            “This is a pretty straightforward and common-sense idea: if the Department of Energy is going to allow for more natural gas to be exported when Maine and other Northeastern states desperately need it, then it better ensure that Maine people and Maine businesses aren’t going to be hit with higher energy costs as a result,” Senator King said. “I have long thought that it would be shortsighted for the Department to give away our competitive advantage to other countries, but if it decides to do so, I don’t want people in Maine to pay the price.”

The recent expanded production of domestic natural gas has offered an affordable source of energy for homes and businesses, and has been a rare competitive advantage for domestic industries and manufacturing. Despite that, energy companies have increased pressure on Congress and the DOE to allow for greater exports, which could lead to higher domestic prices – especially for Northeastern states like Maine that are heavily invested in natural gas as a source of electric generation, but lack adequate natural gas infrastructure.

Currently, the DOE is required to review applications to export natural gas and to certify that those applications are in the public interest. However, there is currently little guidance from Congress to the DOE on what considerations should be included in its review of natural gas export proposals beyond the basic environmental and permitting requirements. The DOE has pointed to a number of studies that show positive macroeconomic effects from gas exports but has so far failed to conduct a more nuanced consideration of the issue that accounts for regional differences and heavily-impacted industries in areas like manufacturing that are energy-intensive.

The Natural Gas Consumer Protection Act would help change this by requiring key factors to be considered under the public interest standard, including the impact of exports on:

  1. Natural gas prices in the U.S., including regional natural gas prices and natural gas prices for domestic consumers and manufacturers
  2. The differential in natural gas prices between the U.S. and foreign countries
  3. The global economic competitiveness of domestic manufacturing and other industries
  4. Domestic employment
  5. U.S. energy security

Senator King has repeatedly spoken out against increasing exports of LNG when more natural gas is desperately needed in Maine and across New England to help lower energy prices. In 2015, he introduced the Domestic Energy Security Protection Act and the Regional Gas Consumer Protection Act, bills which aimed to prevent America from giving away one of its sole economic advantages – lower energy prices – to international competitors when it could benefit the country. He has also joined with his colleagues to push the Department of Energy to see that it considers the impact on families and manufacturing before approving LNG export applications.

Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) is also an original cosponsor of the legislation.


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