The U.S. Department of Energy on Thursday issued a rule to exclude environmental reviews for marine transport of liquefied natural gas (LNG), as the Trump administration unleashes last minute rules supporting the fossil fuel industry.
The rule, which the Energy Department issued in a pre-publication notice in the Federal Register, frees LNG transport license applications from including environmental reviews that have been required under a bedrock environmental law, the National Environmental Policy Act.
The requirement has only been on LNG shipments to countries with which the Washington does not have a free trade agreement, such as China.
The Trump administration has pursued an "energy dominance" policy to boost production and exports of fossil fuels. It has touted LNG exports to Asia and to Europe as an alternative to pipelined gas from Russia.
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"The new rule could be rescinded as part of early executive actions on climate," by Biden, who will be inaugurated on January 20, analysts at ClearView Energy Partners said in a note to clients.
Biden transition officials 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 rule would not affect environmental reviews of LNG projects that liquefy and process the fuel by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or the ships the transport it.
A senior Energy Department official said the reviews concerned environmental impact of the "boil off" of LNG, or the fuel that unavoidably turns back into a gas from its liquid state while being shipped.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner Editing by Paul Simao and Marguerita Choy)