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Coalition of states criticize Biden’s natural gas export freeze


(The Center Square) – A coalition of about two dozen state attorneys general sent a letter to President Joe Biden Tuesday blasting the president’s recent decision to freeze the approval of new export sites for liquefied natural gas.

Biden announced the freeze last month, citing climate change concerns. The attorneys general called on Biden to end the pause, saying it will hurt the economy, national security, and violated federal law.

“Your administration’s planned ‘pause’ – which we might more accurately call a series of constructive denials – of most American LNG exports is unlawful for several reasons,” the letter said.

The attorneys general goes on to lay out those reasons, saying the Department of Energy does not have legal authority to writ large deny the export permits.

The letter also points out the agency did not go through the standard rulemaking procedure, a lengthy process that allows input from stakeholders.

“Generally, agency legislative rules must go through the APA’s notice-and-comments procedures,” the letter said. “And the pause here is a substantive rule required to go through that process. The pause effectively commands the Department to stop performing its obligations under the NGA to approve export applications and does not leave the agency free to exercise discretion unless it chooses to disobey the policy.

“That’s the exact type of substantive rule that needs to go through notice and comment because it modifies substantial rights,” the letter adds.

The letter comes the same day that House Energy and Commerce Chair Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, R-Wash., held a hearing Tuesday on the export pause.

“The administration has made its intentions clear,” she said at the hearing. “This is not a ‘pause,’ as they’ve claimed. This is a ban. The administration is ignoring the fact that natural gas continues to create millions of new jobs, bring manufacturing back to the U.S., and revitalize communities across the country.

The natural gas industry supports millions of jobs and brings tens of billions of dollars to the U.S. economy.

“In 2022, in Pennsylvania alone, the natural gas industry supported $41.4 billion in economic activity, and shale gas development supported over 120,000 jobs,” Rodgers added.

Over the weekend, about 150 House Republicans sent a letter to Biden criticizing the gas freeze. The letter argues that administrations from the left and right have supported gas exports. Energy exports have become increasingly important given the global conflicts with Russia and Ukraine and in the Middle East, two of the world’s most important energy export areas.

Some House Democrats have also attacked Biden’s decision, but the White House has stood by it, pointing out that the U.S. is already the world leader in these exports and that those exports are expected to significantly grow in the coming years.

“We also must adequately guard against risks to the health of our communities, especially frontline communities in the United States who disproportionately shoulder the burden of pollution from new export facilities,” the White House said in a statement. “The pause, which is subject to exception for unanticipated and immediate national security emergencies, will provide the time to integrate these critical considerations.”

State attorneys general signing Tuesday’s letter come from Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.