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Jones Act defenders say Trump shoots down attempt to weaken shipping law

At the urging of US lawmakers from oil- and natural gas-producing states, the Trump administration has reportedly halted consideration of a 10-year waiver of the Jones Act shipping rule that prevents LNG tankers from carrying domestic supplies between US cities.

Senator Bill Cassidy, Republican-Louisiana, said Trump told six Republican lawmakers that he would oppose any long-term waivers to the Jones Act during a meeting at the White House on Wednesday.

“That’s what we went there hoping to get, and that’s what we did get. So of course we’re all very pleased,” Cassidy told reporters after the meeting.

A White House spokesman declined to give any details about the meeting other than the attendees and that it covered “maritime shipping policies.”

The White House was reportedly debating granting a 10-year waiver of Jones Act restrictions to allow for LNG from US export facilities using non-US flagged vessels, in order to meet generation needs of Puerto Rico or to ease gas system constraints during winter peak demand in New England.

The Jones Act requires vessels transporting goods between US ports to be US-flagged, US-built and majority US-owned. It has been temporarily suspended after hurricanes.

Other lawmakers who attended Wednesday’s meeting were Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan of Alaska, John Kennedy of Louisiana, and Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi; and Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow, National Security Advisor John Bolton also attended the meeting.

In recent months, calls have surfaced for LNG shipments from the growing US gas export sector to New England, where constrained pipeline infrastructure has contributed to tight supplies for power generation during winter peak demand days. In December, Puerto Rico asked the Trump administration for a 10-year waiver of Jones Act restrictions in order to import LNG on foreign-flagged tankers.

Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette downplayed a report that the White House was debating a Jones Act waiver during an April 24 interview with S&P Global Platts.

“These topics come up from time to time as a matter of routine,” Brouillette said. “It’s really because the president has directed all of us at the agencies toward an all-of-the-above energy strategy,” and to look at all options to get that energy to market. “The fact that we can’t get natural gas to the Northeast as easily as the president would like us to do that means that we have to find solutions,” he said.
Source: Platts

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