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US State Department sees increased interest from Congress in targeting Russian energy exports

Washington — The US Congress appears increasingly interested in legislation targeting Russian energy exports to counter Moscow's aggression against Ukraine since the Sea of Azov incident, a top State Department official said Monday.

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The House of Representatives is set to vote Tuesday on a non-binding resolution expressing opposition to the completion of the 55 Bcm/year Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany.

"We certainly are monitoring the level of interest that Congress has," Assistant Secretary for Energy Resources Francis Fannon told reporters during a briefing. "We've been monitoring the bills -- something like 10 bills out there -- all of which include Russian energy as a key component."

Fannon said he cannot comment on any particular legislation.

Last month, Moscow seized three Ukrainian navy ships and their crews in the Kerch Strait offshore Crimea.

Russia's state-owned gas company Gazprom plans to build Nord Stream 2 across the Baltic Sea along a similar route to the original 55 Bcm/year Nord Stream pipeline, which came online in 2011.

The US has long opposed the Nord Stream expansion, arguing that Europe should not be so dependent on Moscow for energy. The government has recently been touting US LNG exports as an alternative to Russian gas, in addition to supporting the Southern Gas Corridor from the Caspian region to the EU.

The House resolution up for vote on Tuesday, if passed, would offer support for imposing sanctions on Nord Stream 2 under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Actions Act. The resolution would also call on European governments to reject Nord Stream 2 and urge President Donald Trump to "use all available means to support European energy security through a policy of diversification to lessen reliance" on Russia.

The House bill says Nord Stream 2 would increase Russian control over the European energy market. It says Russia already controls 40% of Europe's gas supply, and 11 European countries rely on Russian gas for at least 75% of their needs.

"Russia's geopolitical interest in Nord Stream II is not to increase European energy security, but rather to drive a wedge between countries in Europe and drastically diminish the existing Ukrainian gas transit system," the bill says.

Representative Michael Conaway, Republican-Texas, introduced the bill in July. -- Meghan Gordon, meghan.gordon@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Valarie Jackson, newsdesk@spglobal.com