Biden’s LNG export pause “unjustified,” should be reversed, Senator Manchin says

Ari Natter, Bloomberg February 12, 2024

(Bloomberg) – The White House’s pause on new liquefied natural gas (LNG) export approvals is unjustified and should be “reversed immediately” if a study of the shipments is only beginning now, Senator Joe Manchin said at a Senate hearing Thursday.

Manchin also used a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the moratorium to cast doubt on the impartiality of the administration’s study of the effects of LNG exports on climate change, the economy, and national security, according to a written copy of Manchin’s opening statement.

“Unfortunately, it seems the White House has already sided with climate activists determined to block any more LNG exports, and I am deeply concerned the White House will put its thumb on the scale at DOE to get the political outcome they want,” Manchin told the committee, which the West Virginia Democrat chairs.

The hearing, which featured testimony from Deputy Energy Secretary David Turk, was called by Manchin after the Biden administration announced Jan. 26 it was halting approvals of new licenses to export LNG.

The White House said part of the reason a new study is needed is because the government’s existing analysis doesn’t reflect evolving information about how much methane — the prime ingredient in natural gas — could warm the atmosphere. The study will also cover concerns about domestic natural gas price impact and global energy markets.

Charlie Riedl, executive director of the Center for LNG, a Washington-trade group that represents exporters including Cheniere Energy Inc. and Sempra, said the administration’s rationale for pausing new approvals while conducting the review was flawed.

“The administration is ignoring the facts,” Riedl plans to say, according to a copy of his opening statement. “This ‘pause’ is inconsistent with the DOE’s longstanding policy and precedent and the free-market principles that have allowed our country to remain the world’s most prosperous.”

The administration’s pause has potential implications for more than a dozen proposals now awaiting review at the Energy Department, including ventures in Louisiana by Commonwealth LNG and Energy Transfer LP.

The Senate hearing comes amid a growing chorus of criticism over the Biden administration’s freeze from not only industry, but also congressional Republicans as well as some moderate Democrats.

“We just don’t agree with the president on this one issue,” Senator John Fetterman, a Pennsylvania Democrat, said in an interview earlier this week, referencing fellow Pennsylvania Democratic Senator Bob Casey, who has also voiced opposition to the export permit freeze. “Senator Casey and I believe energy security is national security and that it’s about jobs.”

Still, it’s not clear how many Democrats would support legislation that would strip the Department of Energy of their role in approving LNG export permits and instead require the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to deem the export of gas to be consistent with the public interest. The House may vote on the measure by Texas Republican Representative August Pfluger as soon as this week.

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