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U.S. Set To Approve $1 Billion For Eastern Europe Energy Independence

Poland's first liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal, in the Baltic port of Swinoujscie.

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill that will set aside $1 billion to support energy projects in Eastern Europe and Eurasia to wean the region off Russian oil and gas.

The European Energy Security and Diversification Act was passed by the House on December 17 as part of the $1.4 trillion spending package to keep the government running through next year. The bill is expected to pass the Senate and be signed by President Donald Trump this week.

The United States has accused Russia of using its vast oil and gas resources to keep its energy-deficient neighbors within its realm of influence. Many countries in Eastern Europe receive most of their energy imports directly or indirectly from Russia.

Washington is seeking to break that hold in part by setting aside $1 billion that could be used to finance strategic energy projects in the region, such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals, gas interconnectors, as well as solar and wind energy generation.

Russia is “actively pushing a predatory energy policy to gain political and economic leverage. That’s exactly why we should help finance energy independence projects in and around Moscow’s periphery, especially those that contribute to renewable energy goals,” said Senator Chris Murphy (Democrat-Connecticut), a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee who authored the legislation.

The United States is experiencing a fossil-fuel energy boom with oil and gas production reaching all-time highs, allowing the country to compete with Russia for a share of Europe’s market. The bill would also favor projects that help facilitate U.S. exports.

U.S. President Donald Trump has made U.S. energy exports and energy infrastructure a key topic of discussions with leaders from Central and Eastern Europe during their visits to the White House this year.

The legislation also instructs the State Department to give diplomatic and political support to countries eligible for the energy project financing.

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    Todd Prince

    Todd Prince is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL based in Washington, D.C. He lived in Russia from 1999 to 2016, working as a reporter for Bloomberg News and an investment adviser for Merrill Lynch. He has traveled extensively around Russia, Ukraine, and Central Asia.