House OKs bill targeting natural gas export permit pause

By Nico Portuondo | 02/15/2024 04:16 PM EST

Nine Democrats crossed party lines to support the legislation.

Rep. August Pfluger (R-Texas).

Rep. August Pfluger (R-Texas) during floor debate Thursday. House Television

The House passed legislation Thursday to limit President Joe Biden’s authority over liquefied natural gas export permits.

Nine moderate Democrats joined all Republicans in approving the House’s attack on the administration’s decision to stop permitting new terminals pending a review of climate and price concerns.

The “Unlocking our Domestic LNG Potential Act,” H.R. 7176, from Rep. August Pfluger (R-Texas), would give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission the “exclusive authority” to approve LNG projects. It passed 224-200.


Supporters want to take away the Department of Energy’s ability to weigh whether natural gas exports are in the public interest. The White House says the current review process may need updates.

“Since his first day in office, President Biden has targeted our domestic energy producers and actively undermined America’s efforts to be energy independent,” said House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.).

“When America leads the world in producing and exporting energy, America’s economy is strengthened, its security is ensured, and all our allies benefit as well.”

Despite the bipartisan House vote, the bill’s chances in the Senate are uncertain at best. Most Democrats appear to support the president’s pause or are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

“My colleagues on the other side of the aisle know the Senate’s never even going to take this bill up,” said Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy.

Critics have accused the president of playing politics with international energy politics by trying to please anti-fossil fuel progressive voters, who may prove essential to Biden’s reelection.

But DeGette said, “We need to be clear about why the Republicans are bringing this bill to the floor: They think this will be some good campaign ads.”

Democrats also pointed out that already-approved terminals would triple the nation’s LNG exporting capacity by the end of the decade.

Still, Democratic defections — including Texas Reps. Vicente Gonzalez, Henry Cuellar and Marc Veasey — show how energy issues continue to divide the party.

“I’m for American energy, I’m for Texas, and I’m for my congressional district, as simple as that,” said Gonzalez. “Some people have really lost it on the idea of how we treat American energy in this country.”

Some Democrats who had expressed concern about the export review pause ended up opposing the bill. They included Reps. Lou Correa of California and Lizzie Fletcher of Texas.

“All of us are for LNG exports, we’re all for supporting our allies with energy,” said Correa. “But the wording of the proposition makes me look at it a second time.”

Several Senate Democrats — including Sens. John Fetterman and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Joe Manchin of West Virginia — have also expressed concern with the White House’s decision but have not committed to supporting Sen. Tim Scott’s (R-S.C.) companion legislation.

American Exploration and Production Council CEO Anne Bradbury said about the House action, “Exporting US LNG is simultaneously beneficial for the American economy, our allies’ energy security, and the environment, and it’s imperative that the Senate pass this bill and send it to the President’s desk.”

Auburn Bell, Earthjustice legislative representative, said, “Building more LNG export infrastructure will lock us in to decades of fossil fuel reliance, drive up energy costs for consumers and continue to endanger the health of fence-line communities.”

Reporter Timothy Cama contributed.