WASHINGTON, April 2 (Reuters) - Federal regulators should approve construction of Sempra Energy's liquefied natural gas export project by mid-June, the chair of the U.S. Senate Energy Committee said on Wednesday, arguing that the government needs to move swiftly to keep U.S. gas exports competitive.
Louisiana's Mary Landrieu urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to release its final environmental review of the project by April 30, as planned, and then to move forward to issue a license.
The project, at Sempra's Cameron LNG terminal in Hackberry, Louisiana, won conditional approval from the U.S. Department of Energy to export LNG earlier this year, but it needs permission from FERC before construction can begin.
"We must make certain that the regulatory process for approval of LNG facilities such as (Sempra's) Cameron LNG does not disadvantage American exporters in the battle for the huge international LNG market," Landrieu said in a letter to FERC.
Landrieu is a major advocate for her home-state project and has taken a more aggressive approach in support of gas exports than did her predecessor, Oregon's Ron Wyden, who raised concerns about unlimited gas exports and their potential to raise domestic prices, hurting the manufacturing sector.
Landrieu said her office found that no significant new issues were raised in response to FERC's draft review of Cameron project, which concluded that the plant would not cause major environmental damage.
Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a finding that said FERC's draft report was insufficient. The EPA urged the commission to assess the impact of the increased natural gas drilling that would be needed to support gas exports before releasing its final review.
(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Ros Krasny and Steve Orlofsky)