WASHINGTON — A critical measure by Rep. Cory Gardner advanced in the House Wednesday that would cut bureaucratic red tape and increase the exportation of natural gas to boost the U.S. economy as well as global competition.
Republicans passed the bill on a party-line vote of 15 to 11 in the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on energy and power.
Gardner’s would also send a political message to Russia, which is threatening to cut off the energy supply to Ukraine, that gas from the U.S. would be available as an alternative energy source.
“Opposing this legislation would be like hanging up on a 911 call from our friends and allies abroad,” Gardner said.
“This bill will help many of our allies and trading partners all over the world, while providing jobs and economic growth here at home,” Gardner said.
House Democrats on the panel opposed the bill and argued that fast-tracking the approval of 24 pending applications to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) to World Trade Organization (WTO) would increase the price of the domestic supply.
Meanwhile, the companion bill has been stalled in the upper chamber by Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid, even though it is sponsored by a fellow Democrat who is also Gardner’s opponent in the Senate race, incumbent Mark Udall.
Udall introduced the American Job Creation and Strategic Alliances LNG Act to expand natural gas access to WTO countries, then tried to amend a foreign aid package to Ukraine with his language, but Udall’s attempts were rebuffed by Reid.
“The crisis in Ukraine has refocused (attention) on how U.S. natural gas exports can stabilize global security,” Udall told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee during a March 25 hearing.
“And that is why I will file my bill that would allow immediate DOE approval for WTO countries as an amendment to the pending Ukraine Sanctions bill,” Udall said.
With Udall’s bill stalled in the Senate by his own party and the House measure set to pass in early May, the competition between the Democratic incumbent and Republican challenger to be Colorado’s champion on natural gas issues is likely to be won by Gardner.
In addition to Udall’s short-term failure to pass the bill, his authorship of the measure has also sparked a backlash among his most ardent supports in the environmental community.
By supporting the exportation of LNG and using the U.S. energy supply as a weapon against Russia, some in the green community believe Udall has betrayed them.
Hollywood actor Mark Ruffalo, who portrayed Marvel Comics character “The Hulk,” wrote in the Huffington Post last week that Udall was one of 30 Democratic members of the “climate caucus” who participated in a Senate floor speechathon on the issue.
“This was an important moment to highlight the most critical environmental issue of our time,” Ruffalo wrote. “What was not mentioned however, was the massive threat to our planet posed by exporting liquefied natural gas extracted through the increasingly controversial process known as ‘fracking.’
“Yet legislation authored by one of their own — Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) and a House bill by Congressman Cory Gardner (R-CO), would tear down barriers to the export of LNG, potentially spurring a massive increase in fracking, exacerbating the problems the senators spoke out against,” Ruffalo wrote.
Udall’s support for natural gas also prompted Gardner to challenge the incumbent last week to disavow any statewide initiative in Colorado aimed at banning hydraulic fracturing.