Environmental concerns intensify as Biden Administration faces decision on Louisiana LNG export project

US President Joe Biden | Credits: Getty Images
US President Joe Biden | Credits: Getty Images

United States: The Biden administration has growing pressure on whether to support a mammoth Louisiana LNG export project, with environmentalists saying that the facility would hurt the United States.

Regulatory Considerations

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has three regulators in a panel, will likely deliberate within weeks or months on approving the Venture Global Calcasieu Pass 2 project.

If built, CP2 will be twice as large as Venture Globe’s current C.P. facility, with an export capacity of 20 million metric tons per year.

Regulatory Approval Process

Last July, FERC, an independent arm of the Department of Energy (DOE), granted final environmental approval for CP2. Under U.S. energy legislation, FERC must approve LNG projects unless they are not in “the public interest.” It does not oblige the panel to consider climate consequences. FERC has only ever rejected an LNG proposal in 2016, which it later reversed.

CP2 would also need DOE approval to export LNG to nations with which Washington does not have a free trade agreement, such as those in Europe and Asia.

President Joe Biden’s administration is considering adding a stringent evaluation of LNG export permits, including criteria for how LNG affects climate change, according to a person with direct knowledge of the talks.

The White House refused to comment. A DOE spokesperson indicated that the department lacks information on its approval process.

Environmental Criticism and Advocacy

Bill McKibben is an environmentalist who won the fight against the now-canceled Keystone XL oil pipeline and said any approval of CP2 by Biden’s administration would be a gross misjudgment.

Bill McKibben | Credits: Getty Images

According to McKibben, CP2 would emit more greenhouse gases than the ConocoPhillips (COP.N) Willow oil and gas project in Alaska, which the administration approved last year. Environmental groups have filed lawsuits challenging the Willow decision.

Nearly 500 environmentalists have registered to protest at the DOE from February 6 to 8, according to Jamie Henn, a climate campaigner.

According to Henn, many Willow opponents have rallied against CP2, with online #StopLNG videos receiving millions of views. Pausing approval of LNG projects to allow for comprehensive climate assessments “would be one of the quickest ways Biden could rebuild some trust with a core part of his base” ahead of the November 5 U.S. elections, he said.

International Perspectives

In a letter to Biden administration officials, Eurogas, a coalition of 77 companies and associations, requested the U.S. to avoid an “unnecessary prohibition” on LNG exports to Europe as it works to phase out Russian gas imports following the invasion of Ukraine.

Rapidan Energy Group, a consulting firm, stated in a client note that the Biden administration is unlikely to award any additional export permits before the elections, citing pressure from environmentalists and Democratic politicians.