US energy chief urges caution on gas exports

By RYAN TRACY AND TENNILLE TRACY

WASHINGTON -- The new United States energy secretary raised the possibility of delaying further approvals for United States companies seeking to export natural gas, saying he wants to review whether the government's studies of the issue are adequate.

The comments by Ernest Moniz, who was sworn in as energy secretary, came as industry executives urged the Department of Energy to move quickly on export applications, some of which have been waiting for more than a year.

Sempra Energy Executive Octavio Simoes, who is in charge of the company's bid to export LNG, told lawmakers that time is running short for the United States because other natural gas producers around the world are stepping up efforts.

A study commissioned by the DOE last year found that exports would bring net economic benefits to the United States. The department cited that study last week when it approved an application by Freeport LNG to export natural gas from a Texas facility.

Some 19 other export facilities have pending applications at the Energy Department, taking advantage of rising domestic production.

Mr. Moniz showed caution about the existing studies. Speaking to reporters after a speech to an energy-efficiency conference here, he said he was "committed to doing a review of what's out there in terms of impact analyses" before approving more applications to export United States natural gas. Critics have said last year's study didn't rely on the best data available.

Dow Jones Newswires

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