More efforts launched to combat LNG exports in US House, DOE dockets
Environmentalists have stepped up opposition to US LNG export facilities, backing restrictive legislation in the US House of Representatives, as well as protesting a pending export authorization at the US Department of Energy.
Legislation introduced Dec. 7 by Representative Jan Schakowsky, Democrat-Illinois, and Nanette Diaz Barragán, Democrat-California, would bar the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission from approving new LNG terminals unless doing so would also cut greenhouse gas emissions.
It would also prohibit hydraulic fracturing, ban exports of crude oil and natural gas, and bar new GHG emissions from all new power plants.
Titled the Future Generations Protection Act, the legislation is intended to “help ensure a rapid shift away from fossil fuel to clean renewable energy,” according to a press release from Schakowsky, who is senior chief deputy whip in the House and chair of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection and commerce.
While the bill likely faces long odds of advancing through the Senate, it garnered 21 original cosponsors as it was introduced in the House.
The proposal was backed by groups including Oil Change International, Center for Biological Diversity, Climate Hawks Vote, Earthworks, Food & Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, Progressive Democrats of America and Zero Hour.
Collin Rees of Oil Change International called the bill a “key piece of the climate policy puzzle.”
“[W]e can’t adequately address the climate crisis if we’re exporting billions of barrels of oil and gas to be burned overseas,” he said in a Dec. 7 statement.
Protesting Freeport LNG
Separately, environmental groups have begun citing this winter’s higher gas prices compared to last in contesting LNG export authorizations at DOE.
Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council Dec. 7 protested efforts by Freeport LNG to increase its export volumes by 870 Bcf/y from its site on Quintana Island, near Freeport, Texas, for a term extending through 2050. Freeport has sought authorization from DOE for the exports to non-free trade agreement countries by no later than January 2022. It has applied at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as well to increase the approved capacity by the same amount, which it says is “consistent with the highest production scenario previously reviewed for upper limit normal operations by FERC staff.”
In protesting the DOE authorization, the environmental groups contended LNG exports are “harming Americans now,” and cited the US Energy Information Administration’s October forecast for higher home heating costs his winter compared to last.
“At a minimum, recent trends call into question the continuing validity of the analyses DOE has relied upon in approving prior export applications, and DOE cannot approve FLEX’s application without revisiting these analyses,” they wrote. They added DOE must consider whether the winter gas price increases warrant adding conditions “such as allowing exports only in other seasons outside of peak demand.”
EIA, in its Dec. 7 Short-Term Energy Outlook, scaled back its estimates for Henry Hub spot prices this winter, estimating they would average $4.58/MMBtu in first-quarter 2022, compared with a forecast of $5.24/MMBtu in the November outlook.
The environmental groups also objected to the time period for the export authorization request, contending that “well before 2050, the world must have fully transitioned to net-zero emissions, as the US – and the world – recently affirmed in Glasgow.”
Politics of prices
Higher US energy commodity prices recently have recently generated political heat in Washington. Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat-Massachusetts, Nov. 23 called out US oil and gas companies’ high level of LNG exports at a time of elevated natural gas prices.
In response to her letters querying oil and gas companies about their levels of exports and profits, EQT President and CEO Toby Rice wrote back to say that if the US wants to lead on climate change it needs more LNG and pipeline infrastructure, along with more gas production.
“LNG exports have the potential to be the biggest green initiative on the planet, and it’s not even close” Rice said. “Ramping LNG in a manner that specifically targets the replacement of foreign coal, particularly in China, represents the largest, fastest and most proven opportunity for the United States to address global climate change.”