The Federal Government has undertaken a further important step on the path to becoming independent from Russian energy imports. In a written circulation procedure, the Federal cabinet today approved a tool to help formulate the bill for the proposed Act to Accelerate the Use of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG Act). The bill had been prepared by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action in close consultation with the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection as well as the Federal Ministry of Justice. The draft tool will now be presented to the German Bundestag via the parliamentary groups of the coalition government and further considered in parliamentary proceedings.

The bill is to accelerate the licensing procedures for the construction and operation of land-based and floating LNG terminals, FSRUs (floating storage and regasification units), and for the construction of the necessary connection lines to the gas supply network.

Following Russia’s illegal attack on Ukraine on 24 February 2022, the situation on the energy markets escalated, causing already high prices to rise even further. Moreover, it is impossible to rule out any interruptions to the gas supply at this stage, making it an imperative to step up precautionary measures. To this end, urgent and immediate action is required to set up a more independent domestic gas supply as quickly as possible. Given the difficulties involved in substituting gas with other energy carriers, security of supply can only be ensured by procuring gas from other sources. One of the few short-term options for Germany to procure additional gas volumes on the world market is to purchase liquefied natural gas (LNG). Germany needs a suitable LNG infrastructure to be able to import, regasify and transport LNG. Floating LNG terminals can provide such an infrastructure, at least in the short term. Further to this, connection lines are required to transport the gas further inland. These infrastructures must be set up as soon as possible.

The LNG Acceleration Act enables the licensing authorities to temporarily waive certain procedural requirements on the basis of EU law, particularly in the field of environmental impact assessments. This is warranted in view of the current exceptional situation. Article 2 (4) of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive provides for derogations for such exceptional situations in which security of supply is at risk. On this basis, concrete exemptions are now to be specified. It is important to note, however, that the substantive licensing requirements pursuant to immissions legislation, particularly in the context of EU provisions under the Seveso III Directive, and also pursuant to water legislation will not be altered. They will continue to apply, making sure that authorities can continue to undertake comprehensive assessments based on substantive criteria.