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Biden Administration Pauses Pending Approvals on Natural Gas Facilities

On January 26, 2024, the Biden administration announced “a temporary pause on pending decisions on exports of ‘Liquified Natural Gas’ (LNG) to non-FTA (Free Trade Agreement) countries until the Department of Energy can update the underlying analyses for authorizations… “ The administration pointed to oversight guidelines from the Department of Energy (established five years ago) as outdated. This pause would allow time to reevaluate the oversight to better align with modern conditions, like energy cost increases and safety concerns surrounding greenhouse gas emissions these new projects would produce. 


The U.S. became the largest global LNG exporter in 2023, making the pause a difficult decision. Even though previously approved projects will continue operating, if the pause is prolonged it may affect the U.S. position in the global market as competitors like Qatar look to expand operations to stay competitive. 


Europe has become dependent on U.S. LNG since being cut off from Russia’s supply in 2022. The already approved operating facilities will continue to supply Europe and other nations with their LNG needs. 


There are already projects that have been approved that are still being built. When completed, the expansions would nearly double the sizes of LNG projects along the Gulf Coast. The scale of this calls into question how dire the prolonged pause on pending expansions would be. 


The pause was driven by grassroots initiatives that have acquired financial backing from people such as the Rockefellers, Michael Bloomberg, and Jeff Bezos. These community leaders and organizations along the Gulf Coast are against the constant expansion of facilities across coastal lands. Some worry about the impacts on air quality, tourism, and natural resources like fish, shrimp, wetlands, and endangered species. Activists argue that the benefits to their local economies would not be worth the natural ramifications these facilities would bring. 


Since the announcement from the Biden administration, republican disapproval developed in Washington. August Pfluger, a representative from Texas, then introduced a bill on 2/1 in the House of Representatives. Within the bill, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (an independent oversight organization within the DOE that monitors the interstate transmission of natural gasses) would have the exclusive authority to approve or deny an application for siting, construction, expansion, or operation of a facility that exports and imports natural gases to and from foreign countries. On 2/15, the bill passed in the House of Representatives as the House has a Republican majority. It’s likely to be stopped in the Senate, which has a Democrat majority.

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