Federal regulators on Thursday broke an impasse over approving new projects to export natural gas from the United States, potentially easing the way for a flurry of applications to build the multi-billion dollar facilities.
In doing so, the regulators approved a liquefied natural gas export terminal for the first time in two years, pushing through a disagreement over how they should assess the facilities' contribution to climate change. However, divisions remain within the commission on the issue, and one of the four sitting members dissented from the majority decision.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Thursday decided to approve Venture Global's proposed Calcasieu Pass export terminal in Cameron Parish, Louisiana, as well as a pipeline to supply the facility. The project is one of about a dozen vying to tap surging U.S. natural gas production and export LNG, a form of the fuel chilled to liquid form and shipped overseas in massive tankers.
However, applications have been held up while FERC's four commissioners hash out the greenhouse gas issue. The five-person commission has been down one member since former commissioner and Republican Kevin McIntyre passed away last month, leaving the body split between two Democrats and two Republicans.
FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee said he's optimistic that in light of Thursday's deal, FERC now has a framework in place that will help the commission more expeditiously process applications.
"No question about it, it's a top priority of mine and I think my colleagues' as well," he told CNBC on Friday.