The Biden administration will temporarily pause pending applications for facilities that export natural gas, citing climate change considerations, the White House announced Friday.
The announcement, which comes after heavy pushback from environmental groups and affected Gulf communities, will put the brakes on eight new export terminals while the Department of Energy (DOE) reviews its approval process, including how to account for the impact of greenhouse gas emissions. The pause will not affect liquified natural gas (LNG) export terminals that are already operating.
“Today, we have an evolving understanding of the market need for LNG, the long-term supply of LNG, and the perilous impacts of methane on our planet,” said the White House in a statement. “We also must adequately guard against risks to the health of our communities, especially frontline communities in the United States who disproportionately shoulder the burden of pollution from new export facilities.”
“The pause, which is subject to exception for unanticipated and immediate national security emergencies, will provide the time to integrate these critical considerations,” the White House statement said.
LNG is made of methane, a potent contributor to climate change. While industry groups have called LNG “the cleanest of the fossil fuels,” new research from Cornell currently undergoing peer review suggests its total greenhouse gas emissions are higher than those from coal.
US LNG shipments to Europe have been touted as a strategic move to bolster energy security following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. However, a Jan. 24 report by the environmental group Friends of the Earth found that contracts with European customers represent only 18% of contracts with pending LNG facilities. Customers in the Asia-Pacific region account for 30% of the up-and-coming facilities’ prospective buyers, while more than half of the contracts are with commodity trading firms and oil giants including ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Shell.
The White House’s announcement follows a protest last week at a fossil fuel energy summit in New Orleans. Letters to the federal government signed by 170 scientists and 230 organizations in December called for a halt to Calcasieu Pass 2 (CP2), a Venture Global facility that is among the projects affected by the temporary pause. CP2 is poised to become the largest LNG export terminal in the Gulf.
Venture Global couldn’t immediately be reached for comment about the White House decision.
“As a resident of Cameron Parish Louisiana who lives in the shadows of three operating LNG export terminals, I would like to thank the Biden Administration for announcing a temporary pause on decisions by the DOE as it applies to the continued approval of methane export licenses,” said John Allaire, a retired engineer and environmental consultant who lives in Cameron Parish, Louisiana.
Allaire lives just over a mile from Venture Global’s Calcasieu Pass facility and not far from the pending CP2 project.
The exploding LNG industry is already threatening the generations-old livelihood of Louisiana crabbers and fishers, with tankers bigger than cruise ships destroying crab traps and dredging projects radically altering the landscape.
“Fishermen from Louisiana would be wiped off the face of the Earth by these gas export terminals,” said Anne Rolfe, director of the grassroots group Louisiana Bucket Brigade, referring to the postponed projects.
“Although I am thankful for the pause, a pause can be unpaused at any time,” said Travis Dardar, a fisherman who lives near the Calcasieu Pass facility. “With the [LNG facility] already operational in Cameron, the commercial fishing industry has lost over 50% of the catch just in the first year. Shrimpers are running out of time.”
(This story was updated 2/2/24 to reflect that CP2 will be affected by the export permit pause if it is first approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)).
(Featured image: The Calcasieu Pass LNG terminal in Cameron Parish, Louisiana. Photo by Courtney O’Banion for the Louisiana Bucket Brigade.)