The White House is halting the permitting process for several proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal projects over their potential impacts on climate change, an unprecedented move environmentalists have demanded in recent months.
In a joint announcement Friday morning, the White House and Department of Energy (DOE) said the pause would occur while federal officials conduct a rigorous environmental review assessing the projects’ carbon emissions, which could take more than a year to complete. Climate activists have loudly taken aim at LNG export projects in recent weeks, arguing they will lead to a large uptick in emissions and worsen global warming.
“As our exports increase, we must review export applications using the most comprehensive up-to-date analysis of the economic, environmental and national security considerations,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told reporters on a press call. “This action includes a pause on pending applications for exports of U.S. natural gas as LNG to non-free trade agreement countries until the department can update the underlying analyses for authorizations.”
“The U.S. is committed to affordable energy and economic opportunities for all Americans. We are committed to strengthening energy security here in the U.S. and with our allies,” Granholm continued. “And we’re committed to protecting Americans against climate change as we lead the world into a clean energy future.”
While it is unclear which proposed projects the action will affect, a senior administration official told reporters at least two have a larger capacity and two have a smaller capacity. Another official added that the pause implemented Friday will only impact projects that have gone through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) lengthy approval process and are ripe for DOE approval.
According to federal data updated this week, there are 11 projects that have been green-lit by FERC but are not yet under construction. An additional four projects are pending before FERC and two are in the pre-filing stage. Those six projects wouldn’t be impacted by the pause since they are not before DOE yet, but they would be impacted if approved by FERC.
“From day one, we have looked out for frontline communities from day one,” White House climate czar Ali Zaidi said. “From day one, we have stood with our allies and partners. That’s how Joe Biden leads on climate change. And when it comes to the climate crisis, we square our shoulders, we take on the challenge in front of us, we lean into the solutions and, yes, we transition globally away from fossil fuels. That is the solution, that is the strategy that the president has articulated.”
“As the department steps forward in this way under Secretary Granholm’s leadership, I think it’s important to note the context in which this happens,” Zaidi added. “We’re doing this weeks removed from a U.N. climate conference where the United States, under President Biden’s leadership, was out front making sure that the global community was clear-eyed about the need to transition globally away from fossil fuels.”
LNG export terminals have been opposed by Democrats and environmentalists who argue they would create harmful pollution and contribute to global warming. The issue has led to activists posting videos on social media which, over the last two months, have generated tens of millions of views.
Additionally, in December, dozens of environmental groups wrote to Granholm, imploring her to reject the LNG development “for the sake of our climate and communities.” Days later, 170 scientists penned a letter to President Biden, asking him to reject pending LNG facilities.
Climate activist Bill McKibben recently announced he was organizing a civil disobedience protest outside the DOE’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., over the permitting of new LNG export terminals. He said the action would mimic the protests that helped nationalize the Keystone XL pipeline fight during the Obama administration.
But proponents of additional LNG export facilities say the projects are vital to help meet energy demand in Europe and Asia as nations look to wean off Russian natural gas supplies. In the weeks following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in early 2022, Biden traveled to Europe and struck a deal with the European Union, vowing to send more U.S. LNG to the bloc.
“I think they’re really making a miscalculation here. This isn’t just bad policy, it’s bad politics,” former FERC Chair Neil Chatterjee told Fox News Digital. “We made a commitment to our European allies, to Germany, that we would be there and help them. You really should not be playing politics with energy security.”
“What’s really frustrating from the environmental perspective is that U.S. LNG actually displaces more intense fossil sources of fuel overseas,” Chatterjee said. “We have a much cleaner process than the Russians do. So, not only are we providing geopolitical assets to our allies, but U.S. LNG displacing dirtier sources of fuels actually lowers global carbon emissions. And the activists seem to be just kind of brushing over that.”
This month, energy associations Eurogas and the Asia Natural Gas & Energy Association (ANGEA) issued strong statements of support for continued permitting of U.S. LNG export terminals. Eurogas reiterated such exports were critical for ensuring the full phase down of Europe’s dependence on Russian natural gas, while ANGEA added U.S. LNG is needed to meet Asia’s decarbonization goals.
The German state-owned energy company Securing Energy for Europe said in a recent letter to Granholm that U.S. LNG is “vital for Germany’s energy security.” That company has already entered into a purchase agreement with at least one proposed LNG export terminal project in Louisiana.
“This would be a win for Russia and a loss for American allies, U.S. jobs and global climate progress,” American Petroleum Institute (API) CEO Mike Sommers said after reports of the actions emerged Wednesday.
“There is no review needed to understand the clear benefits of U.S. LNG for stabilizing global energy markets, supporting thousands of American jobs and reducing emissions around the world by transitioning countries toward cleaner fuels,” Sommers continued. “This is nothing more than a broken promise to U.S. allies, and it’s time for the administration to stop playing politics with global energy security.”
API joined a letter to Granholm alongside dozens of other fossil fuel industry associations on Wednesday, calling for the energy secretary to allow LNG export permitting to continue apace. They wrote that LNG exports “insulate American consumers from increasing global instability while advancing American national interests and ensuring the energy security of key U.S. allies.”
In addition, proponents of increased LNG exports have noted that transitioning the world’s economy to more natural gas reliance would also help ensure nations meet decarbonization goals. Without increased LNG, they argue, nations would rely more heavily on coal-fired power generation, which has a much larger carbon footprint when burned than natural gas power generation.
The industry letter to Granholm noted that the U.S. has led the world in carbon emissions reductions thanks in large part to greater reliance on natural gas. Coal produced the largest share of electricity generated in the U.S. for decades until 2015, when natural gas surpassed it.
Scroll down to leave a comment: