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Judge sides with 16 states, putting on pause Biden’s delay of consideration of gas export projects

LAKE CHARLES, La. — The Biden administration can’t delay consideration of projects aimed at exporting liquefied natural gas while a legal challenge by 16 Republican-led states plays out in federal court, a Louisiana judge said Monday.

U.S. District Judge James Cain, Jr. sided with the states, granting a preliminary injunction that puts the Biden administration’s delay on hold.

It was unlikely, however, that any of the projects would be on a fast track for consideration as the U.S. Department of Energy said late Monday that it disagreed with the court’s ruling and was evaluating its next steps. The White House also voiced disappointment.

“We remain committed to informing our decisions with the best available economic and environmental analysis, underpinned by sound science,” White House spokesperson Angelo Fernández Hernández said in an email to The Associated Press.

President Joe Biden in January decided his administration would delay consideration of new natural gas export terminals in the United States, even as gas shipments to Europe and Asia soared following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The move aligned the Democrat with environmentalists who fear an increase in exports — in the form of liquefied natural gas, or LNG — is locking in potentially catastrophic planet-warming emissions.

A coalition of states including Alabama, Louisiana, Alaska, Texas, West Virginia and Wyoming sued in March, claiming that the administration was violating the U.S. Constitution and other federal laws by banning exportation of LNG to countries without a free trade agreement.

In February, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said, “Biden’s team haphazardly halted the exports of liquefied natural gas under the guise of ‘climate change,’ without consideration for the unnecessary harm on our struggling economy, or the dire consequences for national security.”

In temporarily blocking the Biden ban on new approvals, Cain said the states will likely succeed in their case. He cited evidence submitted by the plaintiffs that showed loss of revenues and deferred investments in LNG projects due to the Biden administration’s actions.

The ruling comes just days after a federal commission approved what would be the nation’s largest export terminal for liquefied natural gas. Venture Global’s Calcasieu Pass 2 southwestern Louisiana project, often referred to as CP2, was approved last week with little discussion by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

That project still needs DOE approval. The agency has said the project’s application was pending.

Republican members of Congress from Louisiana to Alaska have derided the administration’s pause as shortsighted and a boon to foreign adversaries that produce energy, including Iran and Russia. Other supporters have argued that projects such as CP2 will be critical to global energy security.

The environmental group Evergreen Action was among those to criticize Cain’s ruling, alleging that the judge was “bending the law to hand the oil industry a win.”

“Pause or no pause, the science is clear: No sound analysis that accounts for the climate and environmental hard inflicted by LNG exports could possibly determine that these deadly facilities are in the public interest,” Craig Segall, the group’s vice president, said.

According to the DOE, current authorizations for exports of LNG to non-free trade agreement countries stand at over 48 billion cubic feet per day, or more than 45% of our current domestic production of natural gas. The agency also said the U.S. will continue to be the largest exporter of LNG by a substantial margin for at least the next six years based on the current export capacity.


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