LNG Exports Are Illegal

As the White House, Congressional leadership and energy regulators at FERC are fast-tracking natural gas exports, they’re forgetting one important fact: it’s against the law. First, a little background. Less than a decade ago, natural gas prices were at record highs and folks like then-Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan were saying that the US had to make it easier to permit Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) imports. Fast forward to today, where fracking has resulted in booming domestic natural gas production, fueling calls to make it easier to permit LNG exports. But fracking poses enormous risks to the environment, nullifying emissions benefits when it is burned as a fuel. We’ve raised these concerns about LNG exports in the past, but new research shows that exporting LNG is illegal.

In 1975, President Ford signed the Energy Policy & Conservation Act into law. In order to protect consumers, Section 103(b)(1) of the EPCA (S.622) directed the President of the United States “to promulgate a rule prohibiting the export of crude oil and natural gas produced in the United States, except that the President may…exempt from such prohibition such crude oil or natural gas exports which he [sic] determines to be consistent with the national interest.” While the Department of Commerce promulgated rules banning crude oil exports, the agency never got around to writing rules banning natural gas exports. This oversight not only means that proposed LNG exports are most likely illegal, but that consumers are at risk. That’s because of supply and demand: the more fracked natural gas we export, domestic supplies will get tighter, pushing up gas prices for households and businesses.

Public Citizen will ask the Department of Commerce to issue this long-dormant requirement to ban natural gas exports, not just to protect consumers, but to discourage the additional fracking that would occur to meet expanded demand wrought by LNG exports.

Tyson Slocum is Director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program. Follow him on Twitter @TysonSlocum