John Allaire stands in profile with water and LNG infrastructure in the background.

Local Louisiana community activist John Allaire stands in profile with water and LNG infrastructure in the background.

(Photo: Francois Picard/AFP via Getty Images)

70,000+ Healthcare Workers to Biden: Stop 'Malignant Growth' of LNG

"My medical opinion is that we should not be building nor permitting more LNG export terminals," one health expert said.

A group of public health organizations sent a letter to President Joe Biden Sunday asking him to stop the buildout of liquefied natural gas export infrastructure and, specifically, to rule that the proposed Calcasieu Pass 2, or CP2, export terminal "is not in the public's interest."

The letter was signed by 30 local and national groups that represent more than 70,000 health professionals. It argued that CP2 and the "malignant growth" of LNG export terminals generally would harm health by contributing both to localized pollution and the climate crisis.

"As health professionals who have committed our lives to protecting and improving health, we are extremely concerned about the environmental racism, cumulative pollution, and climate impacts of these LNG export terminals," the groups wrote.

"As a doctor, I've witnessed what happens when polluting industries are built near communities, and LNG export terminals are no different."

CP2 is an export terminal planned for Louisiana's Gulf Coast, which is already overburdened with oil, gas, and petrochemical infrastructure. The company behind the project, Venture Global, has a documented history of violating environmental permits at its original Calcasieu Pass terminal, to which CP2 would be "technologically identical." The Department of Energy (DOE) is set to approve or reject the project this fall as a growing movement of frontline community groups, climate organizations, progressive lawmakers, and now healthcare workers are mobilizing against both CP2 and the broader LNG expansion.

"LNG is a toxic, harmful fossil fuel, and President Biden and his administration should do everything they can to stop the LNG buildout," Dr. Anne Mellinger-Birdsong, who is a medical adviser for Mothers & Others for Clean Air and a member of Georgia Clinicians for Climate Action, said in a statement announcing the letter. "Producing and exporting LNG causes health problems throughout the entire LNG lifecycle—from fracking that produces methane to pipelines, compression plants, and export terminals."

CP2 would emit 190 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents each year, the same as the yearly emissions of 42.4 million gasoline-powered cars or 51 coal plants, the letter writers noted. Climate campaigner Bill McKibben had previously observed it would release 20 times the greenhouse gases of the controversial Willow oil drilling project in Alaska over the course of its lifetime. Yet CP2 is only one of 22 new export terminals proposed for the Gulf Coast. If all of them were approved and built, they would contribute as much to the climate crisis as 675 coal plants.

"This would erode into the progress the United States is making towards a renewable energy transition, with only 242 coal power plants operating in 2022 down from 557 plants in 2012," the letter authors observed.

The health professionals noted that adding to global heating harms health in and of itself.

"Climate change is the greatest public health threat of this century, and Americans are already suffering its health impacts," they wrote. "In 2023, health professionals across the country have cared for workers who collapsed under extreme heat, helped kids breathe as climate-intensified wildfire smoke choked their lungs, and comforted families traumatized and displaced by climate-driven extreme weather."

Yet CP2 and the other terminals would have localized impacts as well.

"It is unconscionable that we continue to subject people to these toxic industries when we have the technology to transition justly to renewable energy."

"As a doctor, I've witnessed what happens when polluting industries are built near communities, and LNG export terminals are no different," Dr. Regina LaRocque, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and board member of Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility, said in a statement. "They emit pollutants that cause serious health problems from asthma and respiratory illnesses to cancer and cardiovascular issues, and my medical opinion is that we should not be building nor permitting more LNG export terminals."

Export terminals would emit air pollutants including nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and fine particulate matter, which has been linked to a number of health conditions including heart disease, lung disease, and childhood cognitive problems and is responsible for 350,000 early deaths in the U.S. each year.

The terminals will also drive up demand for gas, leading to more fracking. Almost 18 million people in the U.S. live near a fracking well site, and they are disproportionately people of color, low-income, and vulnerable older adults or young children. Living near a fracking site is associated with higher risk of heart disease, childhood leukemia, kidney disease, asthma, and early death.

"While the fossil fuel industry reaps billions of dollars in profits, communities living around fracking and drilling sites and Gulf Coast residents living next to LNG export facilities will pay with their health and the health of their children," Dr. Laalitha Surapaneni, who serves on the board of Physicians for Social Responsibility and is an assistant professor of general internal medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School, said. "It is unconscionable that we continue to subject people to these toxic industries when we have the technology to transition justly to renewable energy."

The letter writers pushed back against the industry claim that LNG is a cleaner fuel, pointing to emerging evidence that methane leaks make the fuel as emissions-intensive as coal. They also dismissed plans to offset LNG emissions through carbon capture and storage as "greenwashing." Instead, they called on the administration to halt CP2 and all other new LNG infrastructure.

"We are lucky to live in a time when cleaner, healthier energy options are available," Dr. Neelu Tummala, assistant professor of surgery at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences and co-director of the Climate Health Institute at George Washington University, said in a statement. "LNG is not in the public interest; we must choose energy options that prioritize health and well-being."

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