UPDATE 2-Oregon plant LNG exports approved as U.S. pressured to flex energy muscle

Mon Mar 24, 2014 4:14pm EDT
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(Adds comments from analyst, lawmaker, background)

By Ayesha Rascoe

WASHINGTON, March 24 (Reuters) - The Obama administration gave the green light on Monday for exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from a plant to be built in Oregon, the second such authorization this year, as pressure intensifies on the White House to use the U.S. energy bounty to respond to the political crisis in Ukraine.

It is unclear whether the approval of exports from Veresen Inc's Jordan Cove plant, the first LNG-export plant permitted on the U.S. West Coast, was accelerated by political tension related to Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region.

The other LNG project to get the go-ahead on exports this year was approved by the Energy Department nearly six weeks ago. That's a gap between project approvals that's largely in line with the average interval of about eight weeks that has prevailed since Washington resumed issuing LNG export permits last summer.

The Jordan Cove approval did come faster than the 12-week interval between approvals of the previous project, Sempra's Cameron plant in Louisiana, and the one that preceded it.

A total of seven permits for sales to nonfree-trade agreement nations such as Japan and India have been issued, six of those in past 10 months.

The Jordan Cove project is set to deliver LNG to buyers in Asia, not Europe, where many lawmakers hope U.S. LNG would undermine Moscow's influence in natural gas markets.

While the shipments from Jordan Cove would not be directed at Europe, analysts and industry groups said any gas exports from the United States could help increase flexibility in gas markets.   Continued...