Japan’s bid to join negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement may make it easier for the nation to import U.S. liquefied natural gas, a prospect that is raising the hackles of environmental groups. Japan, the world’s largest LNG importer, said March 15 that it wants to be included in the accord, which now encompasses 11 nations in Asia and the Americas. Bringing Japan into a free- trade agreement may boost companies trying to export natural gas from the U.S., according to Randy Bhatia, an analyst with Capital One Southcoast in Houston.
The Energy Department is reviewing 16 applications to build export terminals to ship supplies to countries that don’t have free-trade agreements with the U.S. Among the companies seeking to export gas are Sempra Energy (SRE) of San Diego and Dominion Resources Inc. (D) of Richmond, Virginia. Cheniere Energy Inc. (LNG) has won approval for a facility that would begin exporting in 2015.
“Japan has been very clear that automatic access to LNG is one of the things they want,” Ilana Solomon, trade representative for the Sierra Club in Washington, an environmental group fighting those exports, said in an interview. Success for Japan would mean “we’ll be paying the price here, with more fracking in our backyards, near our schools, and next to our hospitals -- only to help a handful of big gas companies profit by shipping...