WASHINGTON — Frontline leaders from the Gulf Coast and the Permian Basin who organized years of direct actions, petition drives, and meetings with the Washington decision-makers, welcomed the Department of Energy’s announcement Friday that it will pause all decisions on new applications for liquefied “natural” gas (LNG) export terminals until they establish whether the current public interest determination used to evaluate proposed projects properly takes into consideration the impacts that LNG facilities have on the climate, communities, and national security.
LNG export terminals and related infrastructure are sited in low-income communities, communities of color, and on Indigenous lands due to decades of economic disenfranchisement and systemic racism. They spew methane, which is 80 times more potent at warming the climate than carbon dioxide, and dangerous pollutants such as volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides, and fine particulate matter—all damaging to people’s health. Exporting U.S. gas ties the domestic gas market to dramatically higher prices in the international market and, as a result, U.S. residents pay significantly higher gas and electricity prices.
DOE’s current guidelines on LNG date to 1984 and were designed to implement the Reagan administration’s energy policy on natural gas imports. Pausing the process of approving new LNG facilities seeking DOE permits will not impact the export terminals already in operation, and is not an outright ban on exporting LNG. Nor does it apply to any LNG projects previously approved by DOE or any other oil, gas, or petrochemical operations, such as the four offshore oil and gas export terminals seeking permits and the Formosa Plastics’ petrochemical project in Louisiana.
The U.S. became the largest exporter of LNG last year at current levels, with President Biden overseeing the largest volume of oil exported in recorded history last year. Yet the rush to expand U.S. export capacity comes in contrast to the falling demand from one of its largest customers: Current capacity already exceeds Europe’s needs, and the continent’s demand is expected to fall further by 2030.
While many frontline community leaders view the pause as the administration’s first step in listening to communities that are forced to shoulder the unjust burdens of the fossil fuel industry, as long as the government continues to delay the transition to a just, clean energy future, the harm to communities and the climate will continue.
If you are interested in listening to some of the frontline leaders discuss the administration’s pause, tune in on a press call at 10am ET. Register here.
Statements from frontline members of the Permian Gulf Coast Coalition:
“I’m thankful for this pause in granting gas export licenses; the DOE has finally heard the wake-up call,” said James Hiatt, Director of For a Better Bayou. “The gas industry was planning to inundate my hometown with LNG terminals. These gas export terminals, like CP2, are not just an environmental threat; they’re an economic burden on American families. As the U.S. Energy Information Administration points out, exporting LNG drives up domestic energy costs, affecting everything from home heating to food prices. It’s time to really assess our priorities and consider the wider implications of these projects – there’s no Public Interest in padding the pockets and short-term profits of big gas companies on the backs of every American family.”
“This announcement from the Biden Administration is truly monumental for our communities,” said Roishetta Ozane, Director of the Vessel Project of Louisiana. “As someone who has witnessed the devastating impacts of fossil fuel extractive industries, I am filled with hope and gratitude for this important step towards justice. Halting permits for these industries is a clear acknowledgment of the urgent need to protect the well-being and rights of those of us who have been disproportionately affected. It is a powerful statement that we can no longer allow these industries to continue operating without considering the health and safety of the people living in these areas. However, it is crucial to remember that this is just the beginning of a long journey. While this decision is a significant victory, we must not become complacent. The fight for environmental justice and the elimination of fossil fuel extractive industries must continue. We must remain vigilant and continue to advocate for sustainable alternatives. We cannot afford to let up in our efforts to hold decision-makers accountable and ensure that frontline communities are no longer subjected to the harmful effects of these industries. This announcement is a reason to celebrate, but it is also a reminder that our work is far from over.”
“I want to thank the administration for listening to the frontlines and granting a pause to new licenses to LNG export facilities”, said Melanie Oldham, Director of Clean Air & Clean Water Better Brazoria. “Last year, when Freeport LNG exploded and sent a fireball into the air, we witnessed firsthand the dangers of these massive projects, and I hope that this pause is the first of many steps the administration takes in making sure no other LNG terminal gets built. The fight is not over. Freeport LNG continues to operate recklessly in my town, and we will not stop until they shut it down”
“Delaying a ban on exporting LNG will do nothing to address the climate crisis,” said Sharon Wilson, founder of Oilfield Witness. “Science has made it clear that expanding LNG exports has zero benefit to Americans. President Biden needs to stop hiding behind politics, listen to voters, and issue a ban on LNG exports now.”
“I am hopeful this announcement will be the catalyst for real change in our communities and a clean energy future,” said Gwen Jones, resident of Freeport, Texas. “The reality is that fossil fuel companies are still building in people’s backyards and exposing people to toxic pollution. We still need to fight for an end to fossil fuels.”
“This decision by the DOE to re-evaluate LNG export licenses could be a turning point for places like Cameron, Louisiana,” said Travis Dardar, Founder of Fishermen Involved in Sustaining our Heritage (FISH). “Our community has been on the frontline, facing the direct consequences of these massive projects. The disruption to our fishing grounds, the risk of explosions, and the loss of our cherished wetlands — these are the realities we live with. It’s time our struggles and our voices are acknowledged in the national energy policy conversation.”
“This is welcomed news from the Biden Administration and a step toward climate justice,” said John Beard, Executive Director of the Port Arthur Community Action Network. “The jury is still out on whether these 17 and other projects are in the public interest, or will even get built, especially in sacrificed communities in the Gulf South, Appalachia, Alaska, and tribal ancestral lands. We need to know the details of this “pause”; what will be the process and criteria considerations for new fracked gas and petrochem infrastructure? Affected communities must be at the table, their concerns heard and acted upon. This is an important step in the climate justice journey, but more work remains.”
“We celebrate this announcement coming from the Biden-Harris administration,” said Elida Castillo, Program Director of Chispa Texas/LCV. “The health and safety of our communities must take precedence over the hugely profitable exports the oil and gas industry has sold under the guise of domestic energy security. The protection of our planet and precious water supply, that are negatively impacted by hydraulic fracturing, are in the global public interest. We along the Gulf Coast, Permian, and other communities in the Global South are witnessing the effects of these operations. It is decisions like this that lead to equitable solutions for everyone. This is a significant step forward. We will stay vigilant and keep organizing for a clean future for all because there is no Planet B.”
“Texas is one of the Nation’s top producing LNG states, this comes at a cost of the lives of our people,” said Cheyenne Rendon Senior Policy Officer of Society of Native Nations. “Indigenous, Brown, and Black frontline communities have a decreased life expectancy and three to four times the national higher average for cancer, respiratory issues, chronic lung diseases, and organ failure. We have been the sacrificial zone to false solutions and greenwashing such as LNG’s and always find ourselves in conflict with governments and corporations prioritizing profit over the well-being of the land and its people. Our Nation should be setting examples of reliable and true energy solutions and not perpetuate the cycle of poverty and harm in our communities by investing billions of dollars into false solutions such as LNG’s. It is imperative that action is taken. This ‘pause’ wouldn’t have been considered nor executed if there wasn’t weight behind our voices. Our Nation needs to lead by example and prioritize Human Health and Rights over false solutions such as LNG.”