Lobbying dollars flow into DC on exporting US gas

WASHINGTON — Labor unions, energy companies and other groups spent as much as $34 million during the first quarter lobbying for and against exports of U.S. natural gas, according to new disclosures.

A total of 49 entities participated in the lobbying frenzy. Natural gas producers are pressing the federal government to quickly approve permits to sell natural gas overseas while some large industrial users of the fossil fuel fear more exports will cause domestic prices to climb.

Because federal law does not require disclosures to be broken down by specific issues, it is unclear how much of the $34 million was dedicated to gas exports, but it is certain at least some of it did. For instance, the American Petroleum Institute counts gas exports among dozens of issues it tackled in meetings with lawmakers, regulators and other policymakers from January to March. The trade group and firms working for it spent $2.5 million lobbying on liquefied natural gas exports and other issues during that time frame.

Other trade groups that were active on the issue include export supporters America’s Natural Gas Alliance (up to $490,000), the Independent Petroleum Producers of America ($368,825) and the National Association of Manufacturers ($2.04 million) as well as the export foe American Public Gas Association ($30,000).

Companies with planned gas export projects were particularly active:

  • Companies involved in the Cameron LNG project in Hackberry, La., also were active. Sempra Energy spent $490,000 on lobbying this year and GDF-Suez Energy North America devoted $110,000 to the efforts.
  • Oregon LNG and Oregon Pipeline Co., together paid Van Heuvelen Strategies $60,000 to lobby the government as the Energy Department considers their plans for an export facility on the Pacific Northwest.

Organized labor came out in force for some of the projects, the lobbying disclosures show.

For instance, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which devoted $289,639 to lobbying on 11 issues during the first quarter, said one of them was urging the Energy Department to approve an export license for the Jordan Cove Energy Project proposed in Coos Bay, Ore. The Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors National Association also spent up to $5,000 to support Jordan Cove.

Other unions lobbying in favor of gas exports included the United Steelworkers ($10,000) and the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, which spent $210,000 lobbying on that and other issues.

On the other side of the issue were chemical companies and manufacturers who have been critical of widespread natural gas exports.

Their leader is the Dow Chemical Co., the driving force behind a coalition known as America’s Energy Advantage that has pressed the Obama administration to move more cautiously on exports and at least temporarily pause new approvals.

Dow reported spending $5.1 million lobbying so far this year on a variety of topics, including legislation by Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., that would fast track exports to World Trade Organization nations.

Other manufacturing interests lobbying on the issue were:

  • Irving, Texas-based Celanese, which spent $73,000 lobbying on gas exports and a handful of other issues. The specialty materials manufacturer is part of the Dow-led coalition.
  • CF Industries, a fertilizer maker that relies on natural gas as a chemical feedstock, said it spent $110,000 on lobbying, including efforts around legislation that would accelerate LNG exports.
  • Alcoa, also part of Dow’s coalition, spent $440,000 on lobbying, including issues related to LNG exports.
  • Chemical manufacturer Huntsman Corp., also a coalition member, devoted $75,000 to lobbying during the first quarter, at least some of it on LNG issues.