Energy Secretary Says LNG Export Ban Will End Within the Year—Maybe

The liquified natural gas (LNG) export permitting freeze was at the top of the news cycle again this week as S&P Global’s CERAWeek and Energy Week in Congress took place, with Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm laying out a timeline for the pause. Kind of.

At CERAWeek, Secretary Granholm said:

“By the time we meet here at this place next year, it’s going to be long in the rear-view mirror.”

Yet she refused to clarify if this ill-conceived permitting freeze will end within a year or by the end of the calendar year. The vague responses followed those of Amos Hochstein, who offered little clarity in comments to reporters at the Munich Security Conference last month when he said that the pause would last “10-12-14 months… then we’ll make a decision on what we do… do we continue to pause?”

The exact timeline of the pause is of great interest to stakeholders domestically and abroad, including allied governments and international buyers of American LNG. It’s also particularly concerning for a wide range of lawmakers – Republicans and Democrats alike – who see the move as a complicating and unhelpful factor in a competitive election cycle.

Congress Seeks Answers on LNG Pause

The LNG export freeze has been rightly and loudly criticized by industry stakeholders and politicians from both the left and right. Even though U.S. natural gas is cleaner fuel for generating electricity, is credited for global greenhouse gas emissions reductions, and prevented Europe from enduring a devastating energy crisis, the Biden administration still chose to lean into political pressures from activists.

During Secretary Granholm’s Congressional testimony at this week’s fiscal year 2025 budget request hearing for the Department of Energy (DOE), members of Congress attempted to get a clearer answer out of the Secretary regarding the timeline of the freeze.

During her allocated time, Representative Julia Letlow (R-LA) explained the instrumental role oil and gas play in the state of Louisianan’s economy and the harms they face from Biden’s freeze:

“In 2021 alone, oil and gas contributed over 54 billion throughout our state’s economy and accounted for 21 percent of our gross domestic product… This administration’s decision has hampered Louisiana’s growth and potential directly hurting Louisianans. Furthering these restrictions on growth in our energy sector, increasing strains our markets, eliminates Americans jobs, and threatens our national security.”

Rep. Letlow followed up these statistics by asking when the Department’s review of the LNG permitting process would be completed, and the pause lifted:

“Do you stand by your statement that this will take a few months, and do I have your commitment that the study will be completed and published in the federal register this calendar year.”

Granholm, however, after saying only a few days prior that this pause would “be long in the rear-view mirror” within the year, was unable to give any assurances. Instead, she said:

“We are moving with alacrity on this because it is important to get answers to these questions… It will not take as long as the previous studies have taken.”

Rep. Letlow once again attempted to get a direct answer:

“Are you confident it will happen this calendar year?”

She was once again sidestepped by Secretary Granholm who responded:

“I’m confident that it will happen close to this calendar year. I don’t want to put a hard date on it because I want it done right. But it will be done soon.”

 Congress Investigates, State AGs Sue

 Other members of Congress have stepped up the pressure on DOE, initiating probes into the third-party groups the agency apparently relied on to justify its export freeze in the first place. This week, Senators Barrasso (R-WY) and McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) launched an investigation into the Department’s use of International Energy Agency forecasts to justify the pause, rather than using internal studies.

Separately, following reports from the Wall Street Journal that the Rockefeller and Bloomberg nonprofits had an outsized role in pushing the pause over the finish line, three Republican members of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability requested documents and communications between DOE and external groups, seeking:

“. . . information and a staff-level briefing to understand DOE’s role in executing the LNG export pause, whether there were political factors that led to this decision, and how DOE is interacting with other federal agencies regulating LNG.”

Upping the ante further, the day after Secretary Granholm’s testimony, a coalition of attorneys general sued the Biden administration over the LNG pause. Underscoring the political timing of the decision, the new lawsuit points to DOE’s 2023 refusal to pause export approvals at the request of activists. At the time, DOE told activists that it had developed significant precedent for analyzing the many factors – including potential emissions – that go into its evaluation of LNG export permit applications.

Bottom line: No matter how alacritous the pace of DOE’s review is, the fact of the matter remains that the administration’s LNG freeze is ill-advised and could have significant impacts domestically and abroad. The Department of Energy must do the right thing: end the pause and halt their assault on American energy.


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