Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks.

Ken Paxton, Texas attorney general, speaks with the media on February 26, 2024 in Washington, D.C.

(Photo: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

'Industry's Favorite Puppets': 16 Republican States Sue to Block LNG Pause

"The GOP will go to any length to please their Big Oil donors, even if it means driving up costs for their constituents and torching the climate," one campaigner said.

The attorneys general of 16 Republican-led states sued on Thursday to reverse the Biden administration's pause on the approval of new liquefied natural gas export licences, a move that was widely celebrated by climate and environmental justice campaigners.

The lawsuit, backed by states including Texas, Louisiana, and Florida, comes after the Republican-led House of Representatives also voted to reverse the halt on licences.

"The GOP will go to any length to please their Big Oil donors, even if it means driving up costs for their constituents and torching the climate," Jamie Henn of Fossil Free Media told Common Dreams. "This is just more performative politics from the industry's favorite puppets."

"LNG exports are key to expanding fossil fuel production in the U.S."

In its January decision, the White House said it was pausing Department of Energy sign-offs on new LNG exports to non-free trade agreement countries so that the department could review the criteria it used to assess them, including the exports' impact on domestic energy prices and their contribution to the climate crisis. The move put the breaks on nearly 20 planned new export terminals along Louisiana's Gulf Coast, which would have released equivalent emissions to 675 coal plants and added to the pollution burden placed on local communities by the fossil fuel industry.

However, the attorneys general behind the lawsuit argue that the pause would harm their states and communities that rely on the gas industry for income, as well as the industry itself. They also claim that it is illegal under the Natural Gas Act, and that the "whims of activists cannot override" the act's mandate that the energy secretary must approve LNG exports unless they deem they are not in the public interest. Opponents of the LNG buildout have long contended that the new approvals are not in fact in the public interest given their contributions to the climate crisis, local pollution, and higher energy prices.

The lawsuit further contends that the pause violates the Administrative Procedures Act and a Supreme Court order that agencies not act on "major questions" without approval from Congress.In addition to a reversal of the pause, it calls on the court to "preliminarily and permanently" bar the federal government from "halting or attempting to halt the consideration of LNG export applications."

Anne Rolfes, executive director of the frontline advocacy group the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, countered the attorney generals' narrative that gas exports were good for local communities.

"The decision to sue the Biden Administration for protecting Louisiana from the gas export industry is in direct conflict with the urgent needs of those of us who live in Louisiana, especially the fishermen of Cameron Parish," Rolfes said.

Rolfes called the industry an "existential threat" to the livelihoods of small-scale fisherman, who cannot fish while LNG tankers crowd them out of their grounds. She also said the increased terminal construction threatened wetlands that protect the coast from hurricanes and other storms, arguing that the administration of Gov. Jeff Landry was "siding with an industry that is bulldozing storm protections, pouring cement on our coast, and killing our state's seafood industry."

Rolfes added: "The right thing to do is to be on the side of Louisiana fishermen and ordinary people. The Landry administration should sue the gas export industry for damage to fisheries and fully compensate the fisherman. Our culture, our coast, and our future depend on it."

The suit to reverse the LNG pause was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, with the attorneys general of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming joining those of Texas, Florida, and Louisiana.

"The GOP pushback on this is a good reminder of what a big deal this announcement was," Henn said of the suit.

"LNG exports are key to expanding fossil fuel production in the U.S.," he continued, adding that President Joe Biden "did the right thing standing up to Big Oil and we don't expect to see him back down now."

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