PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The U.S. Energy Department gave conditional authorization Monday for liquefied natural gas to be exported from a proposed terminal in Coos Bay, on the Oregon coast.
Jordan Cove LNG terminal is the seventh project to get such authorization, although it may be years before exports begin. The project must still go through an environmental review and final regulatory approval.
The terminal would prepare gas for shipment and export it to countries that do not have a free trade agreement with the United States. The facility would be able to export up to 800 million cubic feet of natural gas a day for 20 years.
The $7 billion project, led by Calgary, Alberta-based Veresen Inc., includes a 230-mile pipeline and a plant that would cool the gas into a liquid state for shipment on tankers. It would move natural gas from the Rocky Mountains and Canada to Asia, primarily Japan and India.
The push for natural gas exports comes amid the new abundance of cheap gas in the U.S. largely resulting from a drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing. Also known as fracking, it involves pumping huge volumes of water, sand and chemicals underground to split open rocks to allow oil and gas to flow.
Improved technology has allowed energy companies to gain access to huge stores of natural gas across the country, but fracking has raised concerns that it could lead to groundwater contamination and even earthquakes.
In recent days, House Speaker John Boehner and other congressional Republicans have urged the Obama administration to speed up natural gas exports and send more liquefied natural gas to Eastern Europe and Ukraine in light of its conflict with Russia over Crimea. Ukraine relies heavily on Russian natural gas shipments.
Boehner has called on President Barack Obama to "do everything possible to use American energy to reduce the dependency on Russia for our friends in Europe and around the globe."
However, even if the Energy Department approves all the pending permits from companies seeking to export natural gas, fuel would not begin flowing overseas for several years. Final approval has been given to just one of about two dozen proposed LNG export terminals in the past two years. Six other projects, including Jordan Cove, have received conditional backing — and most are not expected to begin operations until 2017 or later.
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