Trump Administration Rule Would Reduce Environmental Reviews of LNG Projects

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Trump administration's Energy Department issued a rule to exclude some licensing of LNG projects from environmental reviews that have been required by U.S. law, in a show of support for the fossil fuel industry.

The rule, which the Department of Energy issued in a pre-publication notice in the Federal Register, frees LNG export and import license applications from including environmental reviews that have been required under a bedrock environmental law, the National Environmental Policy Act.

The rule is expected to be overturned by President-elect Joe Biden's administration and challenged by environmental groups in the courts, analysts said.

"The new rule could be rescinded as part of early executive actions on climate," by Biden, who will be inaugurated on Jan. 20, analysts at ClearView Energy Partners said in a note to clients.

The Biden transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Energy Department said in the notice the rule would "save time and expense in the NEPA compliance process." The rule is effective 30 days after Federal Register publication on Friday, or a little more than two weeks before the inauguration.

The Trump administration has pursued a policy it calls energy dominance to boost production and exports of fossil fuels. It has touted LNG exports to Europe as an alternative to pipelined gas from Russia and wants to ship the fuel to Asia.

The rule rests on the basis that the applications qualify for categorical exclusion from environmental review, which the department had already applied to license applications for increased capacity at existing LNG facilities.

The rule would not affect environmental reviews by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the other government office that reviews LNG projects.

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