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Pa. House GOP lawmakers rail against Biden’s liquefied natural gas export approval pause

A big liquefied natural gas tanker sails into port.
Koji Sasahara
Liberian LNG tanker Al Hamra arrives at a port in Yokohama, southwest of Tokyo, Monday, April 21, 2014.

Last year, the United States was the top exporter of liquefied natural gas in the world, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

And Pennsylvania is one of the top producers of natural gas in the nation.

But in January, President Joe Biden announced atemporary pause on pending or future approvals for new terminals that export LNG.

Biden said in a statement the pause is to take a look “at the impacts of LNG exports on energy costs, America’s energy security, and our environment.”

Pennsylvania’s Democratic Sens. Bob Casey and John Fetterman did not welcome the decision.

“While the immediate impacts on Pennsylvania remain to be seen, we have concerns about the long-term impacts that this pause will have on the thousands of jobs in Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry,” they wrote in a joint statement. “If this decision puts Pennsylvania energy jobs at risk, we will push the Biden Administration to reverse this decision.”

State House Republicans decried the pause at a news event Monday.

Rep. Martina White, R-Philadelphia, said it’s hurting Pennsylvania’s economy.

“We should be unified in our opposition to this decision,” she said.

Aside from proposing the pause be reversed, lawmakers are also calling for the construction of an LNG terminal in the Greater Philadelphia area, saying it would help the state’s energy economy.

Because the Department of Energy has to review and approve applications to export LNG, the pause is halting all LNG terminal projects, said Mitchell Rosenberger of White’s staff. There are no current applications to site an LNG terminal in Chester County.

Carl Marrara, executive director of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association, said the construction of the terminal could support 31,248 jobs.

Lawmakers also said increased export of American fuel can affect geopolitical conflicts, like the war in Ukraine.

“We can talk about fighting back against tyrants across the globe, but we could actually do it here in Pennsylvania by exporting our liquefied natural gas across Europe so that they’re not dependent on tyrants in Russia,” Rep. Josh Kail, R-Beaver, said.

Several American allies, such as France, continue to import Russian LNG, according to Reuters.

Lawmakers frequently referred to the pause as a “blockade” and described it as “indefinite.”

Tracy Carluccio, deputy director of Delaware Riverkeeper Network, said those claims are “patently false and irresponsibly misleading.”

“The truth is that a temporary pause on federal approval of the export of LNG from some late-arriving applications has been put in place so the federal government can examine more carefully the economic, climate, and community impacts of new LNG exports,” she said. “LNG export projects can still proceed to obtain other required federal and state permits, so this hold on area of review does not stop a project from progressing.”

She believes the time of fossil fuels is over.

“The fact is the world is turning away from all fossil fuels, including natural gas, because it is dirty and emits greenhouse gasses, worsening the climate crisis and polluting communities and our environment, and is prohibitively expensive,” she said.

She adds her group would never accept an LNG export facility in the Delaware River Watershed.

Tom Schuster, PA chapter director for the Sierra Club, says LNG exports can fuel the climate crisis.

Burning natural gas creates less carbon dioxide emissions than burning coal, but it still contributes to climate change. Gas infrastructure can also leak methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

“The last thing Pennsylvanians need is more dangerous methane gas drilled in our backyards and transported through our communities,” he said.

This story is produced in partnership with StateImpact Pennsylvania, a collaboration among WESA, The Allegheny Front, WITF and WHYY.

Updated: April 11, 2024 at 11:31 AM EDT
Clarification: We’ve added a sentence to this story to note that there are no current LNG terminal project applications for the Philadelphia area that would be affected by the pause.