Climate groups notch big win on LNG

By Carlos Anchondo | 01/26/2024 01:30 PM EST

Declaring a victory on liquefied natural gas exports, environmentalists canceled a planned three-day sit-in at the Energy Department next month.

Climate activists hold a rally to protest the use of fossil fuels on Earth Day in the rain front of the White House, April 22, 2023, in Washington.

Climate activists hold a rally on Earth Day, April 22, 2023, in front of the White House to protest the use of fossil fuels. Carolyn Kaster/AP

Environmental groups are heralding the Biden administration’s pause on pending and future applications to export liquefied gas as a major win for climate activism.

The White House announced the pause Friday, pledging in a statement from President Joe Biden to “heed the calls of young people and frontline communities who are using their voices to demand action from those with the power to act.” DOE’s pause doesn’t affect currently approved exports.

Multiple environmental and advocacy organizations used the word “monumental” in statements to describe the Biden administration’s pause on LNG export approvals, which is expected to last several months. Gulf Coast front-line groups Friday canceled a planned, three-day sit-in next month at the Energy Department after the White House’s announcement.


“This pause is a significant achievement because it paves the way for potential rejections and slows down the projects, making it harder for them to secure financing,” said Roishetta Ozane, founder of the environmental justice group Vessel Project of Louisiana, in a statement.

On a press call Friday, Bill McKibben, founder of climate action group Third Act, said he hopes that the administration’s decision is a “beginning to the end” to treatment of the Gulf Coast as a sacrifice zone, that “maybe this campaign has helped start to wake people up around the country to understanding just what kind of abuse and damage has gone on down there.”

Later, McKibben said the pause is the “imposition, really for the first time, of a climate test for new fossil fuel infrastructure and that climate test won’t be passed” by any LNG export projects.

On the same call with reporters, Travis Dardar, a commercial fisherman in Louisiana who has reached out to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm on X, said he’s excited about the White House pause but noted a pause can be “unpaused at any time.”

Dardar is among a wide coalition of groups that oppose the Calcasieu Pass 2 project, proposed by developer Venture Global. The project — known as CP2 — is still awaiting approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which so far hasn’t put the export terminal on its agenda.

Senior administration officials on Thursday said the pause wouldn’t affect CP2, but the pause could include CP2 if FERC, an independent agency, approved the project. That’s because DOE said Thursday the pause applies to “current and future” pending applications until the review is finished.

LNG Allies, an industry group, said the White House’s pause on LNG approvals is not aligned with a pledge the Biden administration made to the European Union after Russia launched its war against Ukraine in February 2022.

Fred Hutchison, president and CEO of the group, said there’s still “substantial European interest in additional U.S. LNG contracts,” pointing to deals signed in recent months.

“That interest won’t dissipate during a formal ‘pause’ in U.S. government decisionmaking to conduct more studies,” Hutchison said Friday.

The administration’s pause does not affect the United States’ ability to supply allies in Europe and Asia, Granholm said Thursday on a call with reporters.

“Through existing LNG production and export infrastructure, the U.S. has — and will continue — to deliver for our allies,” according to a fact sheet from the White House.

Former President Donald Trump’s campaign panned the move.

Biden “has once again caved to the radical demands of the environmental extremists in his administration,” said Karoline Leavitt, campaign press secretary, in a statement. “This decision to block the approval of new facilities to export American natural gas is one more disastrous self-inflicted wound that will further undermine America’s economic and national security,” she said, promising a different approach from Trump, if elected.