One campaigner called out legislators for "acting quickly to protect a few big polluting industries while continuing to disregard the health, energy, and environment needs of entire families and neighborhoods."
Nine Democrats joined with all present Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday to pass a bill intended to reverse President Joe Biden's recent halt on approvals for all liquefied natural gas exports to non-fair trade agreement countries.
Democratic Reps. Yadira Caraveo (Colo.), Jim Costa (Calif.), Henry Cuellar (Texas), Jared Golden (Maine), Vincente Gonzalez (Texas), Rick Larsen (Wash.), Mary Peltola (Alaska), Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (Wash.), and Marc Veasey (Texas) helped the House GOP pass the Unlocking Our Domestic LNG Potential Act in a 224-200 vote.
Federal law requires the U.S. Department of Energy to authorize LNG exports to countries with which the United States does not have a free trade agreement. H.R. 7176, sponsored by GOP Rep. August Pfluger (Texas), would eliminate that requirement and give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) authority over LNG import and export decisions.
"Gas exports fuel the climate emergency, sacrifice Gulf communities and wildlife, and increase energy costs at home."
While Republican legislators and industry representatives celebrated the vote, H.R. 7176 isn't expected to be taken up in the Democrat-controlled Senate—and even then, it could be vetoed by the president, who made clear in a Tuesday statement that he strongly opposes the legislation.
Frontline and climate advocates who had welcomed the pause announcement last month still sounded the alarm about the bill's passage—an example of what could happen if Republicans gain more seats in Congress and control of the White House in November, when Biden is expected to face former GOP President Donald Trump.
"This vote shows House Republicans are as willing as ever to sacrifice our future in favor of the fossil fuel industry's bare greed," said Camden Weber, a policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Gas exports fuel the climate emergency, sacrifice Gulf communities and wildlife, and increase energy costs at home. We should continue to pause LNG exports, and the Biden administration should use this time to develop a robust public interest test for all dangerous fossil fuel projects."
Elida Castillo, program director of Chispa Texas, part of the League of Conservation Voters, declared that "H.R. 7176 is terrible for many local communities already impacted by out-of-control LNG expansion all along our Texas Gulf coastline."
"Today's House vote represents some elected officials acting quickly to protect a few big polluting industries while continuing to disregard the health, energy, and environment needs of entire families and neighborhoods, often their own constituents," Castillo argued. "The impact of LNG facilities on local communities should be taken seriously, and our federal government has a responsibility to examine the impacts of LNG expansion on our environment and communities.
"Instead, this bill makes it irresponsibly easy for LNG exporters to build, extract, pollute, and then export," she stressed. "The Biden administration's pause on new LNG facilities should continue."
In addition to calling out those who voted for H.R. 7176, campaigners are applauding the Democrats who opposed it, with Fossil Free Media's Jamie Henn saying that "this is the type of fearless leadership we need!"
"The commission's decision ignores the harm record methane gas exports have on raising Americans' energy bills and exacerbating climate change, all to prioritize feeding more gas to China," said Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen's Energy Program.
"The Saguaro export pipeline's only purpose is to bypass the log-jammed Panama Canal to send U.S. produced gas to planned LNG export terminals on Mexico's Pacific Coast," he added. "Public Citizen, as a legal intervenor in the FERC proceeding, will ask for rehearing of today's flawed FERC order."