By Nick Wadhams and Daniel Flatley

Two U.S. senators plan to introduce a bill targeting the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would take natural gas from Russia to Germany, according to two people familiar with the plans.

Texas Republican Ted Cruz and New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, both members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, drafted the measure to increase pressure on Russia and one of its most important exports.

The gas pipeline has divided the European Union, with nations led by Poland concerned about Russia’s Gazprom PJSC tightening its grip on the region if the new pipeline comes online. U.S. President Donald Trump has also criticized the project, calling for the bloc to diversify its energy supply sources and buy liquefied natural gas from North America.

A draft version of the bill would target vessels that lay the pipeline and would deny visas to executives from companies linked to those vessels. It also would block transactions in U.S.-based property or interests belonging to those individuals and would penalize entities that provide insurance to the project.
Supply Debate

Nord Stream 2 supporters argue that a new pipeline is needed to guarantee supplies will continue to flow in the coming decades as EU import needs rise. Opponents of the project say it hurts the bloc’s cohesion and weakens the bloc’s energy union strategy aimed at integrating gas and power markets, diversifying energy supplies and improving security.

Uniper SE, Engie SA, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, OMV AG and BASF SE’s Wintershall are European partners of Gazprom, the Russian gas export monopoly, in financing the project to expand the existing Nord Stream by 55 billion cubic meters a year.

Trump has made opposition to the Nord Stream pipeline a signature issue in relations with Europe and, in particular, Germany. He has said the pipeline will give Russia too much influence over Europe’s biggest economy.

“If you look at it, Germany is a captive of Russia, because they supply --- they got rid of their coal plants, got rid of their nuclear, they’re getting so much of the oil and gas from Russia,” Trump said in July of last year at the start of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s annual summit. “I think it’s something NATO has to look at.”

The natural gas industry will be one of the main beneficiaries of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s effort to close the coal and nuclear plants that currently generate half of the nation’s electricity. While the government is seeking to spur renewables, industry executives, energy forecasters and investors say that more gas will be needed to balance the grid when power flows ebb from wind and solar farms.

That outlook helps explain why Merkel is allowing construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and encouraging new facilities to import liquefied natural gas. In the years ahead, Germany may need much more gas to make up for closing power stations if it falters in its 500 billion-euro ($568 billion) effort to shift toward cleaner fuels.