“To not pass this bill would be the equivalent of hanging up a 911 call from our friends and allies,” the Colorado Republican told an audience at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.
“The opportunity is real, and the time is now,” Gardner said.
Gardner said that his bill, the Domestic Prosperity and Global Freedom Act, would create 45,000 jobs in the U.S. and empower European allies such as Ukraine, which depends on natural gas from Russia for electricity.
Promoting his legislation at a Heritage Foundation event would “help make sure its message gets a hearing far and wide,” said Gardner.
The speech comes as natural gas supporters seek to regain momentum to send a bill to the White House. On Wednesday, Sen. John Hoeven, North Dakota Republican, introduced a version of the bill similar to Gardner’s.
Gardner’s legislation would require the Energy Department to render a decision on permitting or rejecting an application to export natural gas within 90 days after the bill became law or the end of a public comment period. An earlier version of the bill required a 45-day cutoff, the same timeline as Hoeven’s, but Gardner extended the date to garner more support in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
The House approved Gardner’s legislation last month with the support of 46 Democrats, including House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Rep. Steve Israel of New York, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Despite bipartisan support for the bill, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has not guaranteed a vote on the legislation before the August recess. A spokeswoman for the Obama administration did not respond to a request for comment about White House support for the bill.
Gardner is in a closely contested bid to unseat Democratic Sen. Mark Udall and both candidates are trying to appeal to the state’s independent voters and energy supporters.
Udall is a committed environmentalist who bucked the liberal base to introduce his own legislation to speed up the review process of LNG exportation. However, flawed language in the bill sent the measure to the Senate Banking Committee where it stalled. Udall also tried to attach his measure as an amendment to another bill, but Reid blocked the move.
Walking with an aide Thursday in the Capitol near the Senate carriage door, Udall was asked about efforts to revive his legislation but declined to comment.
Liberals argue that exporting liquefied natural gas pollutes the environment.
“Natural gas companies envision a network of winding pipelines and noisy, polluting compressors that connect the drills to the docks, slicing through wild lands, rivers, and backyards,” the Sierra Club said in a statement. “Pipelines and gas wells will inevitably leak or rupture, risking lives and fouling the environment where people live and further polluting the air we breathe and the water we drink.”