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USA legislation targeting Russian Nord Stream 2 project pipeline moves ahead

Investors include Royal Dutch Shell, which maintains a U.S. headquarters in Houston, and four other European energy firms.

Cruz legislation targeting Russian pipeline moves ahead

Greenpeace image relating to Shell/Russia Arctic Drilling Plans

WASHINGTON – Legislation sanctioning construction companies that help complete a controversial Russian pipeline delivering natural gas to Europe cleared a critical legislative hurdle Wednesday.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the bill, sponsored by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., who described the legislation as critical to limiting Russian influence in Europe at a time Moscow is working to interfere in elections there and in the United States.

“[Vladimir] Putin gets his revenues for military adventurism directly from petro-billions flowing into the country,” Cruz said. “This bill is exceptionally important as a matter of national security.”

The vote comes as Russian gas giant Gazprom is nearing completion on its more than 750-mile long Nord Stream 2 project, according to Russian media reports. But Cruz and his supporters maintain deep-water work left to be done in the Baltic Sea that can still be stopped.

The committee’s vote on the legislation was delayed after Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, criticized the legislation as too little too late and an effort to aid the U.S. oil and gas industry at the expense of allies in Europe.

“Who are we, an omnipotent god who decides where oil and gas is routed?” Paul said Wednesday. “Are we really going to sanction someone because we sell something and want to dominate the market.”

Paul and Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., were the lone senators to vote against the bill, setting up an eventual vote on the Senate floor.

Europe is viewed as a critical market for U.S. liquefied natural gas, as export facilities go up at a fast clip along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coasts.

Cruz and Shaheen maintain the legislation is targeting the limited number of contractors that have the capability to help Russia finish the pipeline, not the companies financing the project. Investors include Royal Dutch Shell, which maintains a U.S. headquarters in Houston, and four other European energy firms.

“These sanctions are so narrow as to be precisely surgical,” Cruz said. “There’s only five companies in the world with the technology to lay this pipe. The Russians lack the technology.”

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