Sen. Bill Cassidy and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio introduced a bill on Thursday that would speed up approval for small-scale natural gas exports.
The "Small Scale LNG Access Act of 2017" would grant expedited approval for liquefied natural gas exports equal to or smaller than 51.1 billion cubic feet per year, a move they say will help supply U.S. natural gas to markets in the Caribbean and Central and South America.
The bill would modify the Natural Gas Act to deem those small-scale exports as "consistent with the public interest," thus allowing them to be "granted without modification or delay.” It follows last month's U.S. Department of Energy proposal of a rule that would do the same.
In an interview with KATC this week, Cassidy said the U.S. is supplying a growing number of countries with natural gas, further spurring the massive infrastructure investments required across the country to produce and move the product.
"LNG exports, I think, are a bright spot," Cassidy said. "There is going to be speeding up, if you will, of the construction of these. Markets are being opened up overseas. China will begin to buy some of our liquefied natural gas, and all this works upstream to create more jobs in the gas field, in building pipelines, in order to supply that. So it's good news for our economy."
But with that investment boom comes the matter of private property rights for those living atop shale fields, like the Haynesville in north Louisiana, or along pipeline routes.
Although private companies are required to negotiate with property owners to build natural gas infrastructure like drilling pads, compressor stations or pipelines, eminent domain laws ultimately allow those companies to take the land if the property owner objects.
Cassidy said in the case of pipelines, for example, companies are encouraged to build along existing pipeline routes, thus minimizing the impact for private property owners. But he acknowledged that as natural gas investments continue, more eminent domain cases are going to arise.
“Eminent domain is gonna be an issue. Typically, a state issue. And you have to protect property rights," Cassidy said. "But I have found that when, usually, they can find a place to route their pipeline, there’s also a big infrastructure of pipelines already created, so it isn’t necessarily that you’re bringing one throughout the entire state. You’re just trying to tie into one that’s already there. Hopefully, that limits the impact upon an individual’s property.”
Today, at least another $107 billion in liquefied natural gas projects are either proposed or underway in Louisiana, according to recent figures from the Baton Rouge Business Report.
For now, all U.S. natural gas is exported from Cheniere Energy's Sabine Pass Terminal in Cameron Parish.
But another four terminals are under construction, including a second in Louisiana, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration:
Those four terminals are expected to be online by 2021.