U.S. lawmakers to weigh speeding up LNG exports to help Europe, Ukraine

Sabine Pass LNG Terminal, Louisiana

(Reuters) – U.S. lawmakers will hear testimony on Tuesday from those who favor loosening restrictions on liquefied natural gas exports so that abundant American supplies could help reduce Ukraine and Europe’s dependence on Russian gas.

European worries about the security of energy supplies have grown since Russian forces seized control of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine this month. Moscow has in years past cut gas supplies amid regional disputes.

Currently, the U.S. Department of Energy must give permission to export natural gas to all but a handful of countries with free trade agreements with the United States.

Opponents of unlimited gas exports have argued that shipping too much natural gas abroad could cause U.S. prices to rise, hampering the economy’s ability to recover from the recent recession.

Hearings before the House and Senate energy committees come on the heels of the Energy Department’s sixth approval of LNG exports from a U.S. plant in the past 10 months.

“While our government does not dictate where that supply will go, it does control how fast we will connect to the global market,” David Goldwyn, a senior fellow at Brookings Institution, will tell lawmakers at a Senate Energy Committee hearing slated for 10 a.m. EDT on Tuesday.

This will be Senator Mary Landrieu’s first hearing as chairwoman of the Energy Committee. The Louisiana Democrat has pressed to streamline review of the 24 applications in the queue.

A vocal coalition of industrial companies, led by Dow Chemical Co, has disputed claims that speeding up the Energy Department approvals would help Ukraine or other allies as substantial U.S. gas exports remain years away…