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U.S. House passes bill to reverse Biden pause of some liquified natural gas exports

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U.S. House passes bill to reverse Biden pause of some liquified natural gas exports

Feb 15, 2024 | 5:27 pm ET
By Jacob Fischler
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U.S. House passes bill to reverse Biden pause of some liquified natural gas exports
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The U.S. Capitol on Nov. 25, 2021. (Photo by Jane Norman/States Newsroom)

The U.S. House voted Thursday to approve a bill that would preempt the Biden administration’s move last month to pause new approvals for some liquified natural gas exports.

Nine Democrats voted with every Republican in favor of the bill, which the chamber approved 224-200. The bill would remove the federal requirement that the Department of Energy considers an LNG export permit in the public interest before allowing a project to move forward.

Democrats voting for the bill were Yadira Caraveo of Colorado, Jim Costa of California, Henry Cuellar, Vicente Gonzalez and Marc Veasey of Texas, Jared Golden of Maine, Rick Larsen and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez of Washington and Mary Peltola of Alaska.

The bill does not appear likely to win the 60 votes needed to advance in the Senate, even if some Democrats would support it.

The bill, sponsored by Texas Republican August Pfluger, targets a recent endeavor by President Joe Biden’s administration to pause new Energy Department permits for LNG exports to non-free-trade-agreement countries. The pause has no specified end date and would be in place while the department reviews its criteria for its public-interest evaluations.

Like many of Biden’s energy policies, the move drew the ire of Republicans and some energy-state Democrats who said it would reduce domestic natural gas production.

European market

Advocates for the measure say LNG releases fewer climate-changing emissions than coal and other fossil fuels, and U.S. production and exportation of the fuel closes more of the European market to Russian-sourced LNG.

“President Biden has issued executive orders and given direction to the federal agencies across the government to shut down American energy production, even at the expense of jobs, economic development, national security and the climate,” South Carolina Republican Jeff Duncan said Thursday.

Releasing more American supply would hamper Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to raise money for that country’s invasion of Ukraine, Duncan said. Russia is a large exporter of natural gas.

“Putin and his energy oligarchs are exporting to Europe 40% more than they did before the war in Ukraine,” Duncan said. “That’s 40% more money flowing right into the pocket of Vladimir Putin to fund his war with Ukraine. I would rather that money flow into the pockets of American energy producers and tax bases and communities all around this country.”

Duncan, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy, Climate and the Grid, and other Republicans said Thursday the pause was an election-year ploy to gain favor with environmental groups and was not a well-informed policy goal.

The bill would reverse the pause by revoking the Energy Department’s authority to review export applications.

Instead, approvals for new exports would be overseen only by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Under the bill, FERC would be required to deem all LNG exports in the public interest.

Bill would gut key protection, Dems say

Democrats lined up on the floor Thursday to oppose the bill, which they said would remove a critical environmental guardrail.

“Ensuring that LNG exports are in America’s best interest is something we should all want,” Energy and Commerce ranking Democrat Frank Pallone of New Jersey said. “Instead, we’re here considering a bill that does the opposite.”

The bill “goes so much further” than simply reversing the administration’s pause by requiring that FERC find any proposed LNG export in the public interest, the subcommittee’s ranking Democrat, Colorado’s Diana DeGette, said.

“It says all LNG exports must be in the public interest,” DeGette said. “And it prohibits the Department of Energy from finding otherwise.”

If increased exports lead to higher rates for U.S. consumers or “exorbitant” release of pollution, the department would be powerless to stop expansion, she said.

The pause does not impact current LNG exports, which are ample, DeGette added. The U.S. is the world’s leading producer of LNG. Exports have tripled since 2019.

The Biden administration opposes the bill, the White House Office of Management and Budget said in a Tuesday statement.

The bill would undermine the administration’s ability to ensure exports are aligned with economic, energy security, geopolitical and environmental goals, the statement said.

“The Administration believes that the critical protections current law provides, which this legislation would repeal, should be retained to protect residential and industrial consumers and national and domestic energy security,” the statement said.