German LNG standoff: Controversial law passes in face of strong opposition

Germany’s lower house of parliament (Bundestag) on Friday voted in favour of a legal reform to speed up the construction of liquefied natural gas terminals off the Baltic Sea coast, in a bid to strengthen Europe’s biggest fuel consumer’s energy security ahead of winter 2024.

The reform is facing strong objection from opposition parties and the regional government in the north of the country, where the LNG terminals are about to be built.

All of Germany’s governing coalition’s votes were needed to pass the controversial law through the German Bundestag, Reuters reported.

Some 370 members of the Social Democrat Party (SPD), Green party and liberal Free Democratic Party’s governing coalitions joined forces to pass the controversial legal reform.

According to radio station NRD, 301 members of the opposition parties opposed and four abstained during the critical vote on Friday.

A Bundestag spokesperson told Upstream that, with the Bundestag and Bundesrat [the legislative body that represents the 16 federated states of Germany] approving changes to the LNG Acceleration Act, the law can now be forwarded to the president and then implemented as planned.

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The reform includes fast-tracking the construction of two floating LNG terminals in Mukran on the Baltic Sea island of Ruegen with an annual capacity of 10 billion cubic metres, to be operated privately by Deutsche Regas by early 2024, Reuters reported.

Tourism is the predominant industry in the German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, where the planned LNG terminals would be built.

Mecklenburg-Vorpommern’s Regional Environmental Minister Till Backhaus (SPD) expressed his disappointment with the German federal government’s decision.

“Above all, it is disappointing for us that there is no alternative solution; for example, positioning the region as a hydrogen hub [rather than as an LNG import hub],” Backhaus told NRD.

The regional ministry had sent proposals to the federal government, which would have been acceptable for the region’s residents, he said.

Upstream has requested comment from Mecklenburg-Vorpommern’s Environmental Ministry.

Economy Minister Robert Habeck on Friday said the Ruegen project was controversial, but that Germany needed to ensure the security of supply.

“We’re not done yet,” Habeck said in an address to the lower house of parliament, according to Reuters.