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FIRST ON FOX: A group of two dozen Senate Republicans are taking aim at President Biden after the White House announced it paused several proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal projects over climate concerns.
The lawmakers, led by Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., said the administration's actions — unveiled Friday in a joint announcement by White House and Department of Energy (DOE) officials — will empower Russia and Iran while harming U.S. allies in Europe and Asia. Advocates of LNG exports say the projects are vital to help American allies meet energy demand as nations look to wean off Russian natural gas supplies.
"American LNG exports have enhanced our geopolitical influence and international energy security across the board since 2016," the Republicans wrote in a letter to President Biden and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm. "In addition to Europe, U.S. LNG has a significant impact on energy security in Asia. Japan and South Korea have been the top two destinations for importing U.S. LNG. Taiwan also imports U.S. LNG, and India is rapidly increasing its imports as well."
"Limiting U.S. LNG exports does not have any impact on the world’s demand for natural gas," the letter continued. "Instead, countries including Russia and Iran will simply produce more energy that is subject to less stringent environmental regulations. As a result, limiting American LNG exports in the name of stopping climate change could do just the opposite and add to global emissions."
President Biden ordered pending natural gas export projects to be halted in a stunning move Friday. (Getty Images)
On Friday morning, Biden ordered the DOE to pause pending permits for LNG export facilities while federal officials conduct a rigorous environmental review assessing the projects' carbon emissions, which could take more than a year to complete. The move represents a major victory for climate activists who have loudly called for such a move in recent weeks, even threatening to hold civil disobedience protests in Washington, D.C., over the issue.
In a statement Friday, the president said the pause on LNG permitting was a part of his sweeping climate agenda, saying the action "sees the climate crisis for what it is: the existential threat of our time." He also took aim at "MAGA Republicans" for willfully denying the "urgency of the climate crisis."
While it is unclear which proposed projects the action will affect, a senior administration official said at least two have a larger capacity and two have a smaller capacity. Another official added that the pause implemented Friday will only impact projects that have gone through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) lengthy approval process and are ripe for DOE approval.
According to federal data updated this week, there are 11 projects that have been green-lit 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 wouldn't be impacted by the pause since they are not before DOE yet, but they would be impacted if approved by FERC.
Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., led the letter sent to President Biden and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm on Friday. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
"We strongly urge you to stop this shortsighted effort," Cassidy and the other Republicans concluded in their letter Friday. "As the President of the United States and as the Secretary of Energy, you should be championing – not undermining – American LNG exports and the environmental, economic, and national security benefits to the United States and our allies."
In addition to Republicans and U.S. fossil fuel industry associations, international energy interests such as Eurogas, the Asia Natural Gas & Energy Association and German state-owned energy company Securing Energy for Europe have argued American natural gas is vital for energy security abroad.
In the weeks following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in early 2022, Biden traveled to Europe and struck a deal with the European Union, vowing to send more U.S. LNG to the bloc. At the time, the White House pledged to "maintain its regulatory environment," a statement that appears to have been contravened with Friday's actions.
An LNG carrier ship sits docked at the Cheniere Energy terminal in a photograph taken over Sabine Pass, Texas. (Lindsey Janies/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
But LNG export terminals have been opposed by Democrats and environmentalists who argue they would create harmful pollution and contribute to global warming. The issue has led to activists posting videos on social media which, over the last two months, have generated tens of millions of views.
"President Biden and Secretary Granholm’s bold step today continues this administration’s historic efforts to meet the global commitment to phase out fossil fuels and confront the climate crisis head on," Sierra Club Executive Director Ben Jealous said Friday.
"This decision is a major win for communities and advocates that have long spoken out about the dangers of LNG, and makes it clear that the Biden administration is listening to the calls to break America’s reliance on dirty fossil fuels and secure a livable future for us all."