Oregon Senator urges Biden administration to limit natural gas exports

Along with over 60 of his congressional colleagues, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Energy urging the agency to change how it decides if new licenses for liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports are in the public interest.

The letter features concerns about the DOE's current approach, arguing that it does not "fully or accurately consider how these exports impact the climate, environmental justice, or domestic energy prices," according to Merkley's office.

The letter notes that the DOE has never rejected an LNG export application based on negative impacts on the American people. It also urges the Department to consider costs to consumers and the climate when reviewing export license applications.

“U.S. LNG exports have doubled over the past four years, and projects currently under development are set to almost double exports again. DOE’s case-by-case approach to approvals ignores the aggregate impact that the explosive growth in U.S. LNG exports is having on climate, communities, and our economy,” the lawmakers wrote.

The letter comes as the DOE approves LNG exports; the lawmakers noted, “scientific reports, including a recent peer-reviewed study from Brown University and RMI, have found that natural gas can be as bad for the climate as coal when only small methane leaks are factored in.”

The lawmakers urged DOE to create an approach guided by climate and economic analysis. They want the process of creating this to be transparent and open for public comment.

“By exacerbating climate change, LNG exports also pose a threat to environmental justice at home and abroad because the impacts of climate change fall most heavily on low-income communities and communities of color,” the lawmakers wrote.

“Finally, LNG exports drive up household energy burdens across the country, a key issue for all of our constituents. The EIA found that ‘higher LNG exports create a tighter domestic natural gas market … increasing domestic natural gas prices,’ and this link was on clear display when an explosion at Freeport LNG sent domestic gas prices plummeting, and its restart caused them to rise sharply again,” they continued.

The letter also comes as LNG exports from the U.S. to Europe increased by 141% from 2021 to 2022 after Russia started a war in Ukraine, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

As a result, Russian natural gas exports to the European Union and the United Kingdom plummeted by nearly 40% in the first seven months of 2022 compared to the previous year, according to the same department. This has created a need for European countries to get energy elsewhere.

While the United States has been able to help fill the gap in Europe, Merkley doubted it would be capable of doing so only last year.

"Liquified natural gas (LNG) infrastructure can take at least three years to build, thus failing to address Europe’s short-term energy needs to transition off Russian gas," a letter he and other Democratic lawmakers sent the White House in May 2022 said.


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