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Trump energy secretary, Republicans blast Biden for bowing to 'elite environmental lobby'

Republicans, including former Energy Secretary Rick Perry, blasted President Biden for halting natural gas export permits, a move they argued will boost American enemies.

A wide range of Republicans, including former Energy Secretary Rick Perry, excoriated President Biden for his decision to pause proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) export projects over its economic impacts and potential to boost U.S. enemies.

Perry and Republican lawmakers like House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and House Natural Resources Committee Chair Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., argued LNG exports were critical for maintaining low energy prices in the U.S., supporting American allies are able to wean off Russian gas and decrease global carbon emissions.

"It is an act of economic hostility to withhold U.S. LNG supply from the allies we have promised it to, particularly in the midst of ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and Europe," Perry said in a statement. "The Biden moratorium on LNG permits will empower Putin while killing jobs in Pennsylvania. It will hamstring American national security by forcing our allies back to Russia and Qatar for their energy supply."

"It will also result in an increase in emissions by withholding the most effective tool we have to improve the climate," he continued. "It is a grave mistake for President Biden to reverse course and bow to the elite environmental lobby who do not represent the best interests of the American people and our allies overseas."

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Perry — who led the Department of Energy (DOE) under the Trump administration between March 2017 and December 2019 — added that, while serving as secretary of energy, he met with dozens of European leaders who were "hungry to diversify their energy suppliers."

On Friday morning, Biden ordered the 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 move represents a major victory for climate activists who have loudly called for such a move, even threatening to hold large protests in Washington, D.C., over the issue.

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In a statement Friday, the president said the pause on LNG permitting was a part of his sweeping climate agenda, saying 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."

"President Biden’s decision to indefinitely pause LNG export permits prioritizes the wishes of radical activists over U.S. energy security and the security of our allies," said McMorris Rodgers. "This is another gift to Putin. Everyday Americans want our energy unleashed to strengthen the economy, safeguard jobs, and keep us secure. That’s what Republicans will continue to fight for."

"It is outrageous that this administration is asking American taxpayers to spend billions to defeat Russia while knowingly forcing allies to rely on Russian energy, giving Putin an advantage," added Johnson. "This policy change also flies in the face of the commitments made when the White House announced the joint US-EU Task Force less than two years ago to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russia and strengthen energy security."

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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 the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) lengthy approval process and are ripe for DOE approval.

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

"Stopping the export of American natural gas is a win for our adversaries, like China and Russia, and a direct blow to the environment, American energy workers and communities as well as our allies overseas," Westerman said on Friday.

"It’s a policy that is shortsighted political pandering and will do nothing but drive the cost of energy even higher," the Natural Resources Committee chair said. "American natural gas is the cleanest and safest on earth, and bending the knee to foreign producers only serves to jeopardize our national security and punish hardworking American families who are already struggling under the failing policies of this administration."

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Congressional Western Caucus Chairman Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., said the pause on LNG export terminal permits is "yet another assault on American energy production that jeopardizes our national security and global energy markets."

"President Biden’s move to stall LNG exports is only a win for our adversaries and dirty global polluters like China and Russia," GOP House Energy Action Team Chair Rep. August Pfluger, R-Texas, and Republican Study Committee Chairman Kevin Hern, R-Okla., added in a joint statement. "U.S. LNG helped Europe through a potential energy catastrophe following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and we must not underestimate the important role US LNG cargoes played in handicapping Putin’s efforts."

Biden's action comes weeks after European and Asian energy suppliers called for him to expedite LNG exports. They also called for the president to keep his promise to ensure a steady supply of natural gas in light of the ongoing war in Ukraine.

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In the weeks following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in early 2022, Biden traveled to Europe and struck a deal with the European Union, vowing to send more U.S. LNG to the bloc. At the time, the White House pledged to "maintain its regulatory environment," a statement that appears to have been contravened with Friday's actions.

Additionally, a group of 25 Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., penned a letter to Biden and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm warning of the consequences of the administration's actions.

"Limiting U.S. LNG exports does not have any impact on the world’s demand for natural gas," the letter stated. "Instead, countries including Russia and Iran will simply produce more energy that is subject to less stringent environmental regulations. As a result, limiting American LNG exports in the name of stopping climate change could do just the opposite and add to global emissions."

Proponents of increased LNG exports have noted that transitioning the world's economy to more natural gas reliance would also help ensure nations meet decarbonization goals. Without increased LNG, they argue, nations would rely more heavily on coal-fired power generation, which has a much larger carbon footprint when burned than natural gas power generation.

According to the fossil fuel industry, the U.S. has led the world in carbon emissions reductions thanks in large part to greater reliance on natural gas. Coal produced the largest share of electricity generated in the U.S. for decades until 2015, when natural gas surpassed it.

"Once again, President Biden has caved to far-left extremists, choosing politics over the actual climate science, gutting the American workforce, and putting America’s national security and our allies at risk," Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, said. "When America exports clean-burning natural gas, global emissions go down and our allies can get off Russian gas. These are facts."

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