A man fishes near an LNG facility.

A man fishes near an LNG facility in Sabine Pass, Louisiana.

(Photo: Julie Dermansky/NRDC)

'A Pause Isn't Enough': Biden to Reportedly Halt LNG Buildout

"Biden is afraid that his climate hypocrisy will cost him the election if he doesn't make real progress on fossil fuels," one campaigner said.

The Biden administration has paused the approval of the controversial Calcasieu Pass 2 liquefied natural gas export terminal and is asking the Department of Energy to consider how the project would impact the economy, national security, and the climate emergency, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

The news comes as climate advocates and Louisiana residents have been mobilizing against the buildout of LNG infrastructure, with a sit-in planned at the DOE headquarters in Washington, D.C. for February. If approved, activists have noted, CP2 would emit 20 times more greenhouse gas emissions than the controversial Willow oil drilling project, and the more than 20 LNG export facilities planned for the U.S. Gulf Coast would release more climate pollution each year than the European Union.

"Biden's action shows two things," Oil Change International's U.S. Program Manager Allie Rosenbluth said in a statement about the reported delay. "One, the marches, petitions, and grassroots organizing from frontline communities and their allies are working. And two, Biden is afraid that his climate hypocrisy will cost him the election if he doesn't make real progress on fossil fuels."

"Remember, none of us are free until we're all free, until we can halt these permits and get them to sop being approved permanently, until we can kick polluters out of our communities, the fight must continue."

According to The New York Times, the DOE's decision on CP2 could be postponed until after the November election. In addition to determining whether the project is in the "public interest," three sources familiar with the situation told the Times that the administration had ordered the department to also consider its climate impacts.

Climate advocates greeted the news with cautious optimism.

"Um, I think we all just won," Bill McKibben, who brought the LNG fight to national attention with an article in The New Yorker last year, wrote on his Substack.

"If it's true, and I think it is, this is the biggest thing a U.S. president has ever done to stand up to the fossil fuel industry," McKibben said.

Jamie Henn, the director of Fossil Free Media, told Common Dreams that "if this reporting is correct, it's a major win in the fight against fossil fuels."

"This decision would stop nearly 20 new LNG facilities, representing 675 coal-fired power plants of emissions, dead in their tracks," Henn said.

Jean Su, director of the the Center for Biological Diversity's Energy Justice program said, "We would welcome the Biden administration pausing the monstrous, climate-killing CP2 project, but a pause isn't enough."

"Growing national pressure from youth and frontline communities to end fossil fuel expansion got us here. Now the administration needs to go the full nine yards and reject CP2 and all new oil and gas projects. To preserve a livable planet, we need a public interest test that denies any new project that would drive us further into climate catastrophe and violate U.S. commitments to transition away from fossil fuels."

The Louisiana Bucket Brigade called the move "a huge potential victory for Louisiana" on social media.

"If enacted, this will be a first step toward phasing out gas exports from Louisiana completely," the group wrote. "This industry is already destroying our coast and fishing communities. It should not be allowed to expand, it should not be allowed to continue. Gas exports don't belong here. We do."

In a video posted on social media, frontline environmental justice activist and Vessel Project founder Roishetta Ozane said: "This will be a win for all of us. So many have been fighting so hard to get to this moment."

However, Ozane said that the fight was not over.

"Remember, none of us are free until we're all free, until we can halt these permits and get them to stop being approved permanently, until we can kick polluters out of our communities, the fight must continue."

Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter said that the DOE would have to follow through with actually making an environmentally just and climate-friendly decision following the extended review process. The New York Times pointed out that the department has never declined a gas project on environmental grounds.

"We don't need new criteria if they only serve to arrive at the original conclusion, and increased exports are eventually approved," Hauter said in a statement. "President Biden should permanently halt new and existing oil and gas exports, and aggressively ramp down the fossil fuel industry once and for all."

The news came the same day that a new study from Friends of the Earth, Public Citizen, and BailoutWatch found that the main beneficiary of new LNG facilities would be oil and gas companies and financial speculators, not U.S. or European consumers. At the same time, just eight facilities considered in the report would emit as much each year as 113 coal plants.

The Times news suggests that the administration is beginning to take heed of the drawbacks of the LNG buildout, yet existing infrastructure such as Venture Global's Calcasieu Pass has already polluted Gulf Coast communities and seriously impacted the livelihoods of shrimpers and fishers in the area.

Travis Dardar, founder of Fishermen Involved in Sustaining our Heritage (FISH), told Common Dreams that fishing in the area had already decreased by 50%.

"They said they were going to pause it, they didn't say they were going to stop it," Dardar said. "There's a big difference there."

His experience with oil and gas companies like Venture Global has taught him to be wary and to continue to fight.

"They've taken so much from us down there," he said. "That's how I know how relentless they can be."

National organizations also emphasized the importance of maintaining pressure.

"Big Oil and Gas knows it is up against the ropes and will put up a fight to continue putting its profits over our collective future," Sierra Club executive director Ben Jealous said in a statement. "But despite industry fearmongering, it's undeniable that LNG export projects are simply not in the public interest."

"These facilities pollute our communities, make energy more expensive for American families, and exacerbate the climate crisis all for the sake of more gas the world does not need," Jealous continued. "Our movement will not give up, and we will keep working to ensure that this reported groundbreaking step will lead to meaningful change."

Henn said that February's sit-in would go forward unless the administration officially announced the pause in writing.

"Our work is never over, but this will be a win to celebrate and use to stop other projects to come," Henn told Common Dreams.

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