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The Biden administration today announced a pause on new gas export projects, saying it needs to better assess the economic and environmental impact of each project. This decision will not impact ongoing exports, pending a decision only on liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports to countries with which the US does not have a free trade agreement.
“During this period, we will keep a close eye on the impacts of LNG exports on energy costs, America’s energy security, and our environment,” Biden said in a statement today. “This moratorium on new LNG approvals mirrors the climate crisis: the existential threat of our time.”
“During this period, we will keep a close eye on the impacts of LNG exports on energy costs, America’s energy security, and our environment.”
According to senior administration officials, the pause applies to four pending projects and it could take several months for the Biden administration to complete the assessment of each project.
A fact sheet released today by the White House says the Energy Department’s previous approval process has not been updated for five years, and needs to be revised to better assess how gas exports increase consumer costs in the US. and may be responsible for greenhouse gases. Emissions from each project. So-called natural gas is primarily methane, an even more powerful greenhouse gas than the carbon dioxide that is regularly released from gas infrastructure.
The move comes as President Joe Biden faces pressure to cut US gas development and tries to woo voters who want to see action on climate change. Despite the President’s pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the US is the world’s top gas producer and exporter.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the US has increased LNG exports to Europe as much of the Western world tries to distance itself from Russian gas reserves. But earlier this week, 60 members of the European Parliament sent a letter to Biden saying “Europe should not be used as an excuse for enlargement.” [LNG] Exports that threaten our shared climate and have severe impacts on American communities… Europe’s current consumption of fossil gas is already being met with current import levels and existing infrastructure. Nearly half of U.S. LNG exports went to Europe last year, according to a White House fact sheet.
Leading up to today’s announcement, Biden also faced a backlash from activists in the US over pollution from proposed gas export terminals. “Thank you, President Biden and [Energy Secretary Jennifer] Secretary Granholm, for standing up to the fossil fuel industry,” Louisiana mutual aid organization The Vessel Project said in a Facebook post today. It was one of the groups planning a sit-in at the Energy Department in February to stop approval of new LNG facilities, which has since been canceled.
A website that has garnered over 300,000 signatures, including support from celebrity activist Jane Fonda, for a petition with the same purpose now says, “We did it! President Biden is halting all new LNG export terminals.