White House halts enormous natural gas projects in victory for environmentalists

 The White House is halting the permitting process for several proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal projects because of their potential impacts on climate change, an unprecedented move environmentalists have called for in recent months.

In a joint announcement Friday morning, the White House and the Department of Energy (DOE) said the pause would come while federal officials conduct a rigorous environmental review assessing the projects' carbon emissions, which could take more than a year to complete. . Climate activists have lashed out at LNG export projects in recent weeks, arguing they would lead to huge increases in emissions and worsen global warming.

“As our exports grow, we must review export applications using the most comprehensive up-to-date analysis of economic, environmental and national security considerations,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told reporters on a press call. “This action includes a hold on pending applications to export U.S. natural gas as LNG to non-free trade agreement countries until the Department updates the underlying analysis for authorizations.”

Granholm added, "The United States is committed to affordable energy and economic opportunity for all Americans. We are committed to strengthening energy security here in the United States and with our allies." “And we are committed to protecting Americans from climate change as we lead the world toward a clean energy future.”

While it is unclear which proposed projects will be affected by the action, a senior administration official told reporters that at least two have large capacity and two have small capacity. Another official said the moratorium implemented on Friday would affect only those projects that have gone through the lengthy approval process of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and are ready for DOE approval.

According to federal data updated this week, there are 11 projects that have been given the green light by FERC but are not yet under construction. An additional four projects are pending before FERC and two are in the pre-filing stage. Those six projects will not be affected by this moratorium because they are not yet before DOE, but they will be affected if they are approved by FERC.

“From day one we have focused on frontline communities,” said White House climate czar Ali Zaidi. “From day one, we have stood with our allies and partners. This is how Joe Biden leads on climate change. And when it comes to the climate crisis, we stand with our shoulders forward, we accept the challenge before us "We lean forward into solutions and, yes, we are moving away from fossil fuels globally. That's the solution, that's the strategy that the President has expressed."

"As the department moves forward in this way under Secretary Granholm's leadership, I think it's important to pay attention to the context in which this happens," Zaidi said. “We are moving forward from the UN climate conference this week, where the United States, under President Biden’s leadership, was at the forefront in ensuring that the global community was clear about the need to globally transition away from fossil fuels.”

Democrats and environmentalists have opposed LNG export terminals, arguing that they would create harmful pollution and contribute to global warming. The issue has prompted activists to post videos on social media, which have been viewed millions of times over the past two months.

Additionally, in December, dozens of environmental groups wrote a letter to Granholm urging her to reject LNG development "for the sake of our climate and communities." A few days later, 170 scientists wrote a letter to President Biden, asking him to reject the pending LNG facilities.

Climate activist Bill McKibben recently announced that he would be lobbying Washington, D.C., over permitting of new LNG export terminals. Organizing a civil disobedience protest outside the DOE headquarters in. He said the action would mimic the protests that helped nationalize the Keystone XL pipeline fight during the Obama administration.

But proponents of additional LNG export facilities say the projects are vital to help meet energy demand in Europe and Asia as nations look to tap Russian natural gas supplies. In the weeks following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in early 2022, Biden traveled to Europe and brokered a deal with the EU, vowing to send more US LNG to the bloc.

Former FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee told Fox News Digital, "I think they're really miscalculating here. It's not just bad policy, it's bad politics." "We have made a commitment to our European partners, Germany, that we will be there and help them. You really shouldn't play politics with energy security."

"What's really disappointing from an environmental perspective is that U.S. LNG actually displaces more intensive fossil sources of fuel overseas," Chatterjee said. “We have a much cleaner process than the Russians. So, not only are we providing a geopolitical asset to our allies, but we are displacing dirty sources of American LNG fuel, which will actually reduce global carbon emissions. Reduces that. And the workers are just kind of dodging that."

This month, energy consortium Eurogas and the Asia Natural Gas and Energy Association (ANGEA) issued strong statements of support for the continued permitting of US LNG export terminals. Eurogas reiterated that such exports were vital to fully reduce Europe's dependence on Russian natural gas, while ANGEA said US LNG is needed to meet Asia's decarbonization targets.

German state-owned energy company Securing Energy for Europe said in a recent letter to Granholm that U.S. LNG is "vital for Germany's energy security." That company already has a purchase agreement with at least one proposed LNG export terminal project in Louisiana.

"It would be a win for Russia and a loss for American allies, American jobs, and global climate progress," American Petroleum Institute (API) CEO Mike Sommers said after reports of the crackdown came out on Wednesday.

Somers added, "Any review is needed to understand the clear benefits of U.S. LNG to stabilize global energy markets, support thousands of American jobs, and reduce emissions worldwide by transitioning countries toward cleaner fuels." Not there." "This is nothing more than a broken promise to America's allies, and it is time for the Administration to stop playing politics with global energy security."

API, along with dozens of other fossil fuel industry associations, wrote a letter to Granholm on Wednesday, calling on the Energy Secretary to quickly allow LNG exports to continue. They wrote that LNG exports "protect U.S. consumers from increasing global instability while advancing U.S. national interests and ensuring the energy security of key U.S. allies."

Additionally, proponents of increased LNG exports have noted that transitioning the world economy to greater natural gas reliance would also help ensure nations meet decarbonization goals. They argue that without increased LNG, nations will be more dependent on coal-fired power generation, which has a much higher carbon footprint when burned than natural gas power generation.

The industry letter to Granholm said the US has led the world in reducing carbon emissions due to its greater reliance on natural gas. Coal accounted for the largest share of electricity produced in the US for decades until 2015, when natural gas overtook it.

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