The Biden administration has made a significant move by pausing the permitting process for several proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facilities. This decision reflects growing concerns about the environmental impact of these projects, particularly their carbon emissions.
The halt aims to enable a thorough assessment of the climate impacts of these LNG projects.
The White House and the Department of Energy have suspended the permitting process for these facilities. This pause affects projects that have already cleared the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approval process but are awaiting final approval from the Department of Energy (DOE). The environmental review, focusing on the carbon emissions of these projects, could extend beyond a year.
This decision impacts at least four LNG export projects, including two of larger capacity and two smaller ones. Overall, 11 projects that have received FERC approval but are not yet under construction could potentially be affected.
Climate activists have been vocal in their criticism of LNG projects, arguing that they contribute to higher emissions. On the other hand, LNG developers and some political figures stress the importance of these projects for energy security, both domestically and for allies, as well as their potential to create jobs.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm highlighted the administration's commitment to a balanced approach. "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," she stated.
The paused projects are a part of a broader international energy narrative. Earlier in 2022, President Biden promised the European Union to increase LNG exports to replace Russian gas. This commitment plays a crucial role in the global energy landscape, especially as Europe and Asia look to U.S. LNG to transition away from Russian gas and meet decarbonization goals.
However, environmentalists counter that these LNG projects exacerbate climate change, a view that has led to protests and letters from environmental groups and scientists urging the denial of LNG projects.
Former FERC Chair Neil Chatterjee expressed concern about the administration's decision:
I think they're making a miscalculation here. This isn't just bad policy, it's bad politics. 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.
The American Petroleum Institute CEO Mike Sommers warned of the consequences of the pause. "This would be a win for Russia and a loss for American allies, U.S. jobs, and global climate progress," he argued.
White House climate czar Ali Zaidi emphasized the administration's stance on climate change.
From day one, we have looked out for frontline communities from day one. 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.
The administration's decision reflects a complex balancing act between environmental concerns and the practical needs of global energy security. It also underscores the ongoing debate over the role of natural gas in the transition to a cleaner energy future.
The pause in the LNG export facility permitting process marks a significant moment in the Biden administration's energy and environmental policy. It represents a response to environmental concerns while also acknowledging the challenges of meeting global energy needs and maintaining commitments to allies. This decision will continue fueling debate over the future of energy policy in the United States and its role in global climate strategies.