Sixteen states sue Biden administration over gas permit pause

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Louisiana and 15 other Republican-led states on Thursday sued the Biden administration over its decision to temporarily stop approving new permits for facilities that export liquefied natural gas.

He The lawsuit contends that the Biden administration acted unlawfully. when it decided in January to pause approvals so it could study how gas exports affect climate change, the economy and national security.

Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, the lawsuit asks a judge to end the pause, arguing that the White House had ignored the regulatory process and instead taken action “for decree”.

“There is no legal basis for the pause,” Elizabeth B. Murrill, Louisiana’s attorney general, who led the legal challenge, said in an interview.

Murrill, who referred to the pause as a ban, said suspending permits for any period of time would harm states’ economies and have significant long-term consequences abroad by restricting U.S. gas supplies to Europe.

The United States is the world’s leading exporter of natural gas. Liquefied natural gas is a gas that has been cooled to a liquid state to allow it to be shipped and stored. Even with the pause, the country is still on track to nearly double its export capacity by 2027 thanks to projects already authorized and under construction. But any expansion beyond that is now in doubt.

“I’m not sure the American people feel the pain of this particular decision yet, but it is part of a broader plan by this administration to destroy the fossil fuel industry,” Ms. Murrill said.

The White House and the Energy Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The pause on new export permits came after months of protests from environmental activists, who argued that adding new gas export facilities and expanding existing ones would block decades of additional greenhouse gas emissions, the main driver of climate change. .

“In every corner of the country and the world, people are suffering the devastating price of climate change,” Biden said in January. “This pause on new LNG approvals sees the climate crisis for what it is: the existential threat of our time.”

The decision has drawn the ire of the oil industry, Republicans and some Democrats. Pennsylvania senators, Democrats John Fetterman and Bob Casey, issued a rare statement against Biden during the break. Sen. Joe Manchin III, a Democrat who represents the coal- and gas-rich state of West Virginia, said this week at an energy conference in Houston that “there needs to be a pause on the pause.”

John Podesta, Biden’s senior adviser on climate change, said this week that the White House was not surprised by the reaction.

“We definitely went in with our eyes open,” he said. Podesta argued that it is “prudent” for the government to take the time to study the effect gas is having on the climate.

The gas, which is composed primarily of methane, is cleaner than coal when burned. But methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide in the short term. also can leak anywhere along the supply chain, such as the production wellhead, processing plants and the stove. The process of liquefying gas for transportation also consumes a lot of energy, generating even more emissions.

In addition to Louisiana, states challenging the pause are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.

The states argued that a decision of such magnitude should have gone through a regulatory process, in which states, industry and others could have offered public comment and been given the opportunity to make a decision.

The states argued that the “whims of activists cannot override” the law. The Natural Gas Act of 1938 requires the Secretary of the Department of Energy to issue an export license unless, after a hearing, it is determined that the project is not in the public interest.

Brad Plumer contributed reporting from Houston.

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