President Joe Biden on Friday froze the consideration of new liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals, a move that industry leaders called a "win for Russia."
The action freezes approvals of pending permits for LNG export terminals until the Department of Energy updates its process for review of the authorizations' economic and environmental impacts. The executive branch can make exceptions for cases of immediate national security emergencies, and the pause will not affect terminals that have been authorized already but are not yet online.
"This is a win for Russia and a loss for American allies, U.S. jobs, and global climate progress," said American Petroleum Institute president Mike Sommers. "There is no review needed to understand the clear benefits of U.S. LNG for stabilizing global energy markets, supporting thousands of American jobs, and reducing emissions around the world by transitioning countries toward cleaner fuels. This is nothing more than a broken promise to U.S. allies, and it’s time for the administration to stop playing politics with global energy security."
The administration had previously acknowledged that U.S. LNG exports have been a boon to America's allies in Europe amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, having stopped President Vladimir Putin from wielding natural gas as a weapon.
"With respect to LNG, we know that our liquefied natural gas exports have been a significant help to our allies, and it's very important to make sure that they have the means—we are fortunate that we have an abundance, obviously, of natural gas in this country," Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said in January 2023. "Our prices are low, but during times of challenge, we want to help our allies as well."
The White House in a Friday statement claimed that the United States can still supply Europe with LNG even with the pause.
"The U.S. is already the number one exporter of LNG worldwide—with U.S. LNG exports expected to double by the end of this decade," a White House fact sheet read. "At the same time, the U.S. remains unwavering in our commitment to supporting our allies around the world. Today’s announcement will not impact our ability to continue supplying LNG to our allies in the near-term."
Friday's announcement comes two days after Biden ordered a review of climate, economic, and national security impacts from what would be the largest LNG export terminal in the country, delaying its approval.
Before Wednesday's move, members of the administration met with a 25-year-old TikTok influencer who had launched a social media campaign attempting to get young voters to urge Biden to kill the proposed project, according to the New York Times.