The mysterious delay of a $4.5 billion liquefied natural gas facility on the Louisiana coast has turned a case before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission into the subject of a Washington guessing game, raising fears that what had been a predictable approval process for the nation’s booming natural gas exports is becoming mired in partisan politics.
The Houston Chronicle reports that following the death of Commissioner Kevin McIntyre this month, FERC’s commissioners are split 2-2 between Democrats and Republicans.
Typically, that is not a problem for the independent commission, which has the reputation for bipartisanship. But suspicions were piqued last month when, without explanation, FERC pulled from the agenda of its Dec. 20 meeting a final decision on the Calcasieu Pass LNG facility, funded by the Virginia private equity group Venture Global LNG, and then left it off again at their next meeting Jan. 22.
“That is incredibly uncommon. It was an indicator they didn’t have the necessary votes for an approval,” says Charlie Riedl, executive director of the trade group Center for Liquefied Natural Gas. “The fact the projects haven’t gotten a vote are indicative the politics have changed. That’s the only logical conclusion you can draw.”
Investment in U.S. LNG facilities has taken off in recent years, driven by a glut of cheap domestic natural gas and increasing global demand for a cleaner burning alternative to coal. Should the impasse on Calcasieu Pass continue, it will raise questions not only about that project, but a dozen other LNG terminals slated to come before the commission in the years ahead, including projects in Freeport, Corpus Christi, Port Arthur and the Rio Grande Valley. Read the full story.