House pushes back on Biden climate agenda, votes down natural gas legislation

 February 16, 2024

The House made a decisive move on Thursday, voting to revoke the Biden administration's authority to approve natural gas export projects, a significant setback to the president's environmental agenda.

The Unlocking Domestic LNG Potential Act, championed by Rep. August Pfluger, R-Texas, passed with a margin of 224-200, garnering support from 215 Republicans and nine Democrats.

The situation

Pfluger's legislation aims to overturn President Biden's recent actions, which included halting permits for new liquefied natural gas (LNG) export projects.

Pfluger argued that Biden's policy shift contradicts his earlier commitment to supplying Europe's LNG needs, suggesting that the ban on U.S. LNG exports would benefit adversaries like Russia and Iran.

"Just last year, President Biden told the Europeans that they needed to get off Russian gas and that the U.S. would supply their liquid natural gas needs. Now that it is an election year, he is reneging on that deal to appease his radical climate base," Pfluger stated.

The proposed bill seeks to amend the Natural Gas Act of 1938, granting the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) exclusive authority over LNG export project approvals.

It mandates FERC to consider the public interest when assessing permit applications.

GOP pushback

House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-MN) criticized Biden's climate initiatives, accusing the administration of prioritizing environmental concerns over American jobs and energy security.

Under the current system, the Department of Energy (DOE) evaluates LNG export projects after FERC's review, taking into account factors such as national interest and carbon emissions.

Biden's directive to pause pending permits for LNG export facilities has faced criticism from energy associations and Republicans, who argue that LNG exports are vital for maintaining affordable energy prices and reducing reliance on Russian gas.

The bigger picture

Marty Durbin, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Global Energy Institute, emphasized the importance of U.S. LNG exports for global energy security and environmental progress.

Environmental activists and Democrats have opposed the bill, warning that it would exacerbate climate change and primarily benefit Chinese industries.

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) expressed concerns about the legislation, arguing that it would result in higher gas prices for American consumers and ultimately benefit China.

While the bill successfully passed the House, it now moves to the Senate, where Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) has introduced companion legislation. Despite its House approval, the White House has signaled that President Biden would veto the bill, citing concerns about energy security and consumer protection.

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