House Votes to Overturn Biden’s Natural Gas Export Approval Freeze

(Bloomberg) -- The House voted Thursday to pass legislation that would effectively undo the Biden administration’s freeze on new liquefied natural gas export approvals.

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While the bill isn’t likely to be taken up in the Democratically-controlled Senate, its passage on a 224-200 vote, including nine Democrats, could embolden House Republicans to include language easing the pause in future government funding legislation.

Read More: Biden Freezes Licenses to Export Gas, Imperiling Projects

The legislation (H.R. 7176) by Texas Republican Representative August Pfluger would strip the Department of Energy of their role in approving LNG-export permits and instead require the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to deem the export of gas to be consistent with the public interest. Similar versions have previously-passed the House prior to the administration’s announced pause in late January, but its passage as a standalone bill comes as the GOP seeks to elevate the matter as an election-year issue.

While the effort to remove the Energy Department’s role in approving LNG exports isn’t seen as having enough support in the Senate, opponents of the pause have floated more moderate measures, including setting a firm deadline for the Energy Department to complete its study or adding nation’s such as Germany and Japan to the list of countries presumed to be in the public interest.

In announcing the halt last month, the Biden administration said it would scrutinize how the LNG shipments — which have tripled in the last five years — affect climate change, the economy and national security. Notably, the White House argues that existing analysis doesn’t reflect evolving information about methane — a potent climate warming pollutant in natural gas. The administration last published its report on LNG exports in 2019.

The pause, which the administration has not put a firm timeline on, has left projects in limbo, including proposals by Venture Global LNG Inc., Commonwealth LNG and Energy Transfer LP. It comes amid fervent opposition to the projects from environmentalists and progressive voters who President Joe Biden will need to win reelection.

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