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White House Rejects Tying Ukraine Aid to Reversing Natural Gas Policy

(Bloomberg) -- The Biden administration has dismissed a deal with House Speaker Mike Johnson to tie Ukraine aid to lifting the Biden administration’s pause of new liquefied natural gas export licenses.

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“The president has been clear that House Republicans should pass the bipartisan national security agreement that already passed the Senate as soon as possible to get Ukraine the aid it urgently needs to defend itself from Russian tyranny,” the White House said in a statement on Tuesday.

“The president supports the pause on pending, additional approvals of LNG export licenses to evaluate the economic and climate impacts on consumers and communities.”

Reuters reported earlier that US officials were “open” to perhaps lifting the pause on LNG export approvals that the administration implemented in late January, but wanted to see the entire proposal first. The White House said the report “is not true.”

Johnson in recent weeks has expressed an interest in linking aid for Ukraine and Israel to a reversal of the pause and raised the issue with President Joe Biden in a one-on-one meeting late last month, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Johnson, speaking on Fox News Sunday, hinted that he planned to bring a Ukraine aid package that could include language reversing the pause to the floor after the House returns from its spring recess April 9.

“We want to have natural gas exports that will help unfund Vladimir Putin’s war effort,” Johnson said, referring to the Russian leader.

Read More: Speaker Johnson Sees Ukraine Aid Bill Moving This Month: Fox

It remains to be seen if Democrats, who Johnson would likely need to pass the measure in the face of opposition from hardline conservative Republicans, would go along with such a plan. The Senate passed a $95 billion bill in February giving assistance to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan after months of delay.

Ultimately, Biden’s support for a rider undoing the LNG export permit pause could depend on how it’s structured, Clearview Energy Partners, a Washington consultancy, wrote in a note Wednesday.

“If he had no other option, we believe President Biden might sign a bill which merely blocked the pause, as the DOE still could retain discretion over the pace of non-FTA approvals,” Clearview wrote. “However, if the bill were to mandate approvals, we think it could draw a veto.”

The Biden administration ordered the halt in approving new licenses to export LNG to European, Asian and other countries that are not US free-trade partners while the Energy Department scrutinizes how the shipments affect climate change, the economy and national security.

The moratorium threatens to disrupt plans for multibillion-dollar export projects along the US Gulf Coast, including a massive export facility planned for Johnson’s home state of Louisiana by Venture Global LNG Inc. known as CP2 that had drawn the ire of climate activists.

Johnson raised the case of that project in his meeting with Biden, according to the New York Times, which earlier reported on the meeting.

--With assistance from Akayla Gardner.

(Adds analyst’s comment in ninth, 10th paragraphs.)

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