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More than 150 Republicans take aim at Biden’s moratorium on natural gas exports

FIRST ON FOX: More than 150 House Republicans are calling for President Biden to reverse his moratorium on liquefied natural gas (LNG) export projects, an action they argued negatively impacts the energy security of the U.S. and its allies.

The Republican lawmakers — led by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and joined by House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., and Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y. — penned a letter to Biden on Sunday evening, demanding his administration “expeditiously approve all pending applications to increase the global supply of natural gas.”

“This is economically and strategically dangerous and unnecessary,” they wrote in the letter to Biden. “Under both Democratic and Republican administrations, DOE has consistently found that U.S. LNG exports serve the ‘public interest’ because they contribute positive economic benefits and strengthen energy security for the American people, and also have the potential to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.”

“Your administration should do everything it can to encourage greater production of clean-burning and reliable natural gas, and to grant the export permits that allow access to global markets,” the letter added.

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Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., speaks during the House Republican Conference news conference in the Capitol on Tuesday, February 8, 2022.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., speaks during a news conference at the Capitol. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Late last month, Biden ordered the Department of Energy (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 action represents a major victory for activists who have loudly called for such a move, even threatening to hold large protests over the issue.

The president said the pause on LNG permitting was a part of his sweeping climate agenda, adding 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.”

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But, in their letter Sunday, McMorris Rodgers, Johnson, Scalise, Stefanik and the other Republicans said pausing additional LNG export capacity could ultimately bolster Russia, noting that, in December 2023, more than 87% of U.S. LNG exports went to Europe, U.K., or Asian markets. In the aftermath of Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, energy experts argued LNG exports would be critical for helping American allies to wean off Russian gas.

“Actions that slow or halt the ability to export U.S. LNG would weaken global energy security and put these strategic markets at risk,” the lawmakers wrote. “Such actions would undercut efforts we have made to help Europe reduce its reliance on Russian energy.”

biden lngPresident Biden ordered pending natural gas export projects to be halted in a stunning move Friday. The action was cheered by environmentalists who oppose fossil fuel development. (Getty Images)

And they further argued that pausing LNG export growth threatens to cause increased U.S. energy prices, lead to higher global greenhouse gas emissions and harm the U.S. economy. The letter pointed to research indicating that LNG exports could add as much as $73 billion to the U.S. economy by 2040, create upwards of 453,000 American jobs and increase U.S. purchasing power by $30 billion.

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The letter, meanwhile, comes days before Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans are planning to hold a hearing to examine the potential ramifications of the LNG export pause.

In addition, Senate Banking Committee Ranking Member Tim Scott, R-S.C., led a group of 16 senators last week in introducing the Unlocking Domestic LNG Potential Act which would strip DOE of its authority having final say on LNG export projects, instead leaving approval decisions with the independent Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., speaks during a news conference on Jan. 17. (Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)

Companion legislation was introduced by Rep. August Pfluger, R-Texas, one day later and is expected to receive a floor vote this month.

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 FERC’s lengthy approval process and are ripe for DOE approval.

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According to federal data updated last 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 the DOE yet, but would be impacted if approved by FERC.

The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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