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Biden to pause natural gas export approvals as it updates how to assess projects

The Biden administration will pause approvals of some natural gas export facilities as it considers changing how to evaluate them, the administration announced Friday.

The current analyses the Energy Department uses to decide whether to authorize exports of liquified natural gas (LNG) do not “adequately account” for factors like domestic energy costs or planet-warming emissions, the White House said in a fact sheet. 

As a result, the administration is temporarily pausing pending decisions on whether to approve exports to countries with which the U.S. does not have a free trade agreement

The pause will be in effect until the Energy Department can update how it conducts underlying analyses. An administration official told reporters that an update would take a few months, followed by a public comment period before it is final. 

President Biden, in a written statement, invoked climate change as he discussed the pause.

“During this period, we will take a hard look at the impacts of LNG exports on energy costs, America’s energy security, and our environment,” he said. 

“This pause on new LNG approvals sees the climate crisis for what it is: the existential threat of our time,” he added. 

The pause only applies to new export projects and is not expected to impact existing exports. There will also be exceptions for emergencies.

An administration official told reporters that four projects — two large and two small —  currently have applications before the department and would be affected by the pause. 

A controversial pending project, known as CP2, is not expected to immediately be impacted as its approval is not yet before the Biden administration, the official said. 

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told reporters on Thursday that the update was coming due to a dramatic increase in U.S. natural gas exports.

U.S. capacity to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) has more than tripled since 2018 and is on track to triple again based on projects that are already under construction, she said. 

“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,” Granholm added.

The announcement comes as progressives and environmental activists have shone a spotlight on the natural gas export projects — lamenting the climate implications of increased fossil fuel shipments. 

Politically, the move comes as at least some progressives have expressed disappointment in the administration over issues including the war in Gaza. And while Biden has signed significant climate legislation, progressives have also pushed back on his approval of the Willow Project — a major oil project in Alaska. 

Progressives and environmental organizations cheered the pause.

“This decision is a major win for communities and advocates that have long spoken out about the dangers of LNG, and makes it clear that the Biden administration is listening to the calls to break America’s reliance on dirty fossil fuels and secure a livable future for us all,” said Sierra Club executive director Ben Jealous in a written statement. 

Rep. Jared Huffman, a vice chair of the progressive caucus, cheered the move in a written statement but also called for more action. 

“Pausing new export approvals is a huge deal that will keep our energy bills lower, our communities healthier, and our country safer,” he said. “But let me be clear: this is not ‘mission accomplished.’ In order to save an inhabitable planet for future generations, we need to work with our allies to completely transition off of fossil fuels for good.”

On the other hand, the oil and gas industry criticized the move, saying it hampers global energy security, among other critiques. 

“This is a win for Russia and a loss for American allies, U.S. jobs and global climate progress,” said a written statement from Mike Sommers, president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute. 

“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,” he added.  

This is not the first time the Biden administration has issued a pause as it looked to evaluate the future of fossil fuels.

 During Biden’s first few days in office, he paused new oil and gas leasing on public lands while it considered changes to the leasing program, though, following a series of court actions, leasing has resumed. 


Source: The Hill

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