Court halts Biden pause on new gas exports

A federal court has halted the Biden administration’s pause on new approvals for natural gas exports.

Judge James Cain, a Trump appointee in Louisiana, approved a request from Republican-led states to lift the pause while the litigation against it plays out.

“The Court will grant Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction, and order that the LNG Export Ban be stayed in its entirety, effective immediately,” Cain wrote.

The Biden administration announced in January that it would pause approvals of new permissions to ship natural gas abroad to countries that don’t have free trade with the U.S.

The pause did not impact existing exports. The Biden administration said the pause was being done in order to update the criteria on which it decides whether to OK new gas export terminals — including whether to revamp its considerations of environmental issues in that process.

In his ruling, Cain said the states that challenged the administration’s move are likely to succeed in their case and that they will suffer irreparable harm if the pause continues while the case plays out.

“The Court is convinced that the Export Ban will and is irreparably harming the Plaintiff States. Plaintiff States have submitted evidence of harm specifically to Louisiana, Texas, and West Virginia in the loss of revenues, market share, and deprivation of a procedural right,” he wrote.

Those who sued over the pause cheered the ruling.

“This is a big win for the country’s energy industry and the millions of jobs it supports against the attacks from the Biden administration to further its radical climate change agenda at the expense of our economy,” West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R), who is running for governor, said in a written statement.

“The U.S. Department of Energy disagrees with today’s ruling. The Department continues to review the court’s order and evaluate next steps,” a DOE spokesperson told The Hill.

“We are disappointed in today’s ruling. We remain committed to informing our decisions with the best available economic and environmental analysis, underpinned by sound science,” said White House spokesperson Angelo Fernández Hernández. “The United States remains the world’s largest exporter of LNG, and is currently on track to more than double existing capacity by the end of this decade.”

The Biden administration’s move to halt the approvals of new LNG export facilities was supported by climate-focused organizations.

Craig Segall, vice president of Evergreen Action, called Monday’s ruling “deeply misguided,” but said it would not stop the Biden administration from updating its criteria for new exports.

“Pause or no pause, the science is clear: No sound analysis that accounts for the climate and environmental harm inflicted by LNG exports could possibly determine that these deadly facilities are in the public interest,” Segall said in a statement.

The move also prevented the administration from having to make tough choices that could anger its base ahead of the November election.

Cain’s decision comes just days after a bipartisan panel of federal regulators approved a high profile gas export facility called CP2, which would still need Biden administration approval to send gas to countries that don’t have free trade agreements with the U.S.

The vast majority of U.S. gas exports are to countries without free trade agreements.

Updated at 11:26 p.m. EDT

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