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Oversight Republicans request White House communications on LNG pause

House Oversight Committee Republicans on Monday requested further detail from Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm about the Biden administration’s pause on approvals of new liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports, the latest in several salvos against administration energy policies.

In a letter to Granholm, House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.), Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Energy Policy, Regulatory Affairs Chairman Pat Fallon (R-Texas) and Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) requested a staff-level briefing with the secretary and further information about how politics factored into the decision.

The Energy Department announced the pause in January, freezing all new LNG export approvals to countries without free-trade agreements with the U.S. until the administration can assess the impacts of LNG exports on climate change. Existing exports are unaffected.

“The timing of the decision, in an election year, raises the likelihood that political motivations drove the action,” the three Republicans wrote, citing reporting in The Wall Street Journal suggesting the administration consulted with environmental advocacy groups ahead of the announcement.

Comer, Fallon and Higgins requested communications between the department and White House climate advisers John Podesta and Ali Zaidi regarding the pause, as well as those between the department and nongovernmental organizations.

Congressional Republicans have frequently taken aim at the LNG pause, with GOP senators introducing a bill to undo it and the Republican-majority House passing separate legislation in February giving sole jurisdiction over approving or rejecting new natural gas export projects to the independent Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Nine Democrats voted with the GOP majority on the latter bill.

The White House has emphasized that the pause will not affect existing exports and that U.S. allies who stepped up their imports of American LNG to replace Russian energy. However, Zaidi suggested in January that climate concerns among the Democratic voter base were a factor in the decision as well, saying during a press briefing that “young people have been such a central part of the coalition that helped the president imagine this climate agenda.”

The Hill has reached out to the Energy Department for comment.

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