LNG supporters mount lobbying blitz to avoid Biden’s natural gas export stall

Jennifer A. Dlouhy, Jennifer Jacobs and Ruth Liao, Bloomberg January 24, 2024

(Bloomberg) – The Biden administration is set to unveil plans within days for intensifying environmental scrutiny of applications to export natural gas, potentially stalling massive planned projects for months, if not longer.

Source: Commonwealth LNG

The administration’s approach could be announced as soon as the end of this week, according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named because there’s been no public announcement. White House officials have spent weeks deliberating over the issue — including how aggressive to get — as they navigate competing environmental, economic and political concerns tied to tens of billions of dollars in U.S. gas trade.

A halt in approvals or other significant changes to Energy Department reviews of plans to widely export liquefied natural gas (LNG) threaten to disrupt development of huge LNG terminals along the Gulf Coast and elsewhere. That includes Venture Global LNG Inc.’s massive proposed CP2 export terminal that has drawn fierce opposition from environmentalists, as well as Commonwealth LNG’s project, both in Louisiana.

A White House spokesman did not immediately comment.

U.S. law already requires the government to weigh whether exports are in the public interest. But officials have mulled ways to beef up that review, diving more deeply into the impacts the projects will have on climate change.

A policy shift is set to take the form of a pause in approvals while the government conducts a searching review of the environmental consequences of additional exports — akin to the moratorium President Joe Biden imposed on the sale of new federal oil leases when he first took office.

“It appears the administration may be putting a moratorium on the entire US LNG industry,” Shaylyn Hynes, spokeswoman for Venture Global, said in a statement. “Such an action would shock the global energy market, having the impact of an economic sanction, and send a devastating signal to our allies that they can no longer rely on the United States.”

The U.S. is already the world’s largest LNG exporter, but environmentalists argue more approvals will drive a bigger expansion — and unleash more planet-warming pollution.

More than a dozen license applications are now awaiting review at the Energy Department, though only one — Commonwealth LNG — has cleared a separate required FERC approval process. Any new environmental study or freeze of approvals would likely affect Commonwealth’s application, which has been pending for more than a year, as well as Venture Global’s planned CP2 project, and the others awaiting licenses.

LNG supporters are mounting a last-minute lobbying blitz, trying to head off delays they say threaten to stall final investment decisions and could kill some planned ventures altogether. They are emphasizing the climate benefits of using American natural gas to displace dirtier-burning coal in power plants worldwide. And they argue any pause in LNG export approvals would be an affront to European allies that relied on US natural gas to help displace Russian supplies after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We want to shed light on how damaging this could be to our allies, particularly those in Europe who are desperate for American natural gas,” Mike Sommers, head of the American Petroleum Institute, said at a Washington energy summit Tuesday.

Industry supporters have been encouraging European officials to be more vocal in raising concerns with the White House and State Department.


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