A coalition of environmental leaders sent a letter to President Obama on Tuesday calling on him to "reverse course" on his pursuit of liquified natural gas (LNG) exports and, in the interest of climate urgency, keep all fossil fuels "in the ground."
"We are disturbed by your administration’s support for hydraulic fracturing," the group writes, "particularly, your plan to build liquefied natural gas export terminals along U.S. coastlines that would ship large amounts of fracked gas around the world."
Though applauding Obama's efforts to "elevate" the climate crisis, the letter argues that the expansion of U.S. exports of fracked and liquified natural gas would "significantly undermine" these promises.
During a press call on Tuesday, 350.org founder Bill McKibben—who co-authored the letter—questioned the president's commitment to addressing the climate crisis, saying, "We'll find out how sincere he is."
"He will be far more sincere the more people turn out to cause trouble and point out what a poor idea this is," McKibben added, referring to the expansion of LNG exports. Along with McKibben, the letter was signed by 15 other leaders representing both national and regional environmental groups including CREDO, Food & Water Watch, the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Earthworks, the Sierra Club, the Energy Action Coalition and Earthjustice.
The letter calls specifically for the White House to perform a comprehensive federal environmental impact review for the proposed conversion of the Dominion Cove Point LNG import terminal on the Chesapeake Bay into an export facility—one of the most controversial LNG export proposals currently before the administration.
"The gas industry and the president and champions of export say over and over again that [LNG] is good for the environment," said Mike Tidwell, Executive Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, which has helped lead the charge against the Cove Point project. "We're simply asking them to prove it using credible data—not just political rhetoric and slogans borrowed by the gas industry."
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Tidwell continued, "A generation ago people thought that smoking wasn't so bad [...] and then the evidence came and showed otherwise. In terms of LNG exports, we need to get the evidence on the table and then the American public will be able to see if that makes sense."
According to a statement announcing the letter,
the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of the LNG export process—including drilling, piping, compressing, liquefying, shipping, re-gasifying, and burning—likely make it as harmful to the climate, or worse than, burning coal overseas.
Analysis shows the $3.8 billion Cove Point plan could alone trigger more lifecycle climate change pollution than all seven of Maryland's existing coal-fired power plants combined.
"We can't cut climate pollution and simultaneously expand the use of dirty fossil fuels," said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune. "[W]e must fully understand the consequences of liquefying fracked natural gas for export."
The letter comes amidst a growing push by a number of U.S. legislators to open up U.S. exports of LNG to Ukraine in order to "weaken" Russia's influence on the country, in the ongoing standoff over Ukraine's alignment with either Russian or western powers.