UPDATE 3-U.S. picks up steam on natural gas export projects
* Latest approval comes just over month after last decision
* Cove Point is fourth LNG export approval, third this year
* New permit a bellwether for steady approvals-analyst
By Ayesha Rascoe
WASHINGTON, Sept 11 (Reuters) - The Obama administration on Wednesday authorized natural gas exports from a fourth U.S. facility, unexpectedly accelerating a review process that would-be gas exporters and their allies in Congress had criticized as too slow.
This speed at which the latest approval was reached - just five weeks after the previous project - puts the Department of Energy on a potential pace to rule on several more projects before year's end.
But the permits are drawing concerns from skeptics of unlimited exports who warn that the United States risks giving away the nation's economic advantage of cheap and abundant energy. They warned that the nation is quickly approaching a threshold that could lead to a spike in natural gas prices that would harm consumers and businesses.
Dominion Resource Inc's conditional permit for liquefied natural gas exports from its Cove Point terminal on Maryland's Chesapeake Bay came just over a month after the Energy Department approved exports from a terminal in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Dominion's was the fourth natural gas export permit issued by the administration. It was the third permit issued this year, following a pause of nearly two years in review of applications to export gas to all but a handful of countries covered by free trade agreements. Continued...