Lawmakers will turn up the temperature on the natural gas export battle with two hearings scheduled this week on the topic.
The marquee hearing will be in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, with Energy Deputy Secretary David Turk expected to defend the administration’s decision to pause liquefied natural gas export approvals against an onslaught of Republican and some Democratic criticism.
Chair Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a persistent critic of the president’s energy policies, said he will use the hearing to decide whether to join those urging the administration to reverse course.
“If the Administration has the facts to prove that additional LNG export capacity would hurt Americans, they must make that information public and clear,” Manchin said in a statement.
“But if this pause is just another political ploy to pander to keep-it-in-the-ground climate activists at the expense of American workers, businesses, and our allies in need, I will do everything in my power to end this pause immediately.”
Last month, the Department of Energy announced that it will stop approving new exports to nations without a free-trade agreement until it can review how it determines whether a project is in the national interest. The administration wants reviews to focus more on climate and domestic prices.
Moderate Democrats are increasingly joining Republicans in voicing their displeasure.
Last week, Pennsylvania Democratic Sens. John Fetterman and Bob Casey said they would “push the Biden administration to reverse this decision” if the pause ends up affecting natural gas jobs in their state.
Rep. Marc Veasey (D-Texas) led nine House Democrats from his state, California and Alaska in a letter urging Biden to “refocus” his administration’s policies on LNG exports.
“The export of U.S. LNG is a linchpin for fostering strong international partnerships, diversifying energy supplies, and reducing dependence on volatile regions,” the House lawmakers wrote.
Members of the Energy Export Caucus fired off another letter over the weekend saying the pause “threatens national security, the economy, and clean energy goals.” Caucus leaders include Reps. Carol Miller (R-W.Va.) and Henry Cuellar (D-Texas).
Not to be overshadowed, Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold their own hearing before the Energy, Climate and Grid Security Subcommittee.
“The Biden administration’s indefinite ‘pause’ on liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports jeopardizes American energy security, jobs, and the economy,” said full committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and subcommittee Chair Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) in a joint statement.
“This latest attack on energy production is a political decision to appease radical climate activists at the expense of our energy security and the security of our allies.”
The hearing, the first formal congressional action on the topic, will be a preview of an increased energy focus from House Republicans over the next month.
Rep. August Pfluger (R-Texas) reintroduced the “Unlocking Domestic LNG Potential Act,” H.R. 7176, which would remove DOE from approving natural gas exports.
It’s expected to headline an “energy week” on the House floor in February. The Senate also has LNG export legislation pending.
Separately, the House Rules Committee last week sent to the floor a broad resolution, H. Res. 987, to condemn the president’s energy policies.
Republicans are already scheming to use the LNG issue as a way to attract moderate Democrats to secure a deal on energy project permitting.
“We’d be making a mistake if we just jam through some Republican red meat thing,” Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) told POLITICO last week. “If we play our cards right, we can actually get something done.”
Graves said it was unlikely the “Unlocking Domestic LNG Potential Act” would actually accomplish that goal because a broad repeal of DOE authority may scare away Democrats interested in bipartisan engagement.
For his part, Manchin said an upcoming permitting compromise negotiated with Energy and Natural Resources ranking member John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) was “very close.” That legislation is widely expected to lead the Hill permitting reform discussion in the upcoming months.
Even if real progress on a permitting package remains elusive — as it has for more than a year — Biden’s decision only added fuel to the preelection energy debate.
“What Joe Biden did is effectively sanction the state of Texas; this is declaring war on Texas,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on his podcast.
Schedule: The House hearing is Tuesday, Feb. 6, at 10 a.m. in 2123 Rayburn and via webcast.
- Toby Rice, CEO, EQT Corp.
- Brigham McCown, senior fellow and director, American Energy Security Initiative, Hudson Institute.
- Eric Cormier, senior vice president of entrepreneurship and strategic initiatives, Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance.
Schedule: The Senate hearing is Thursday, Feb. 8, at 9:30 a.m. in 366 Dirksen and via webcast.
- David Turk, deputy Energy secretary.
- Other witnesses TBA.
Reporter Emma Dumain contributed.
This story also appears in Energywire.