Federal court blocks Biden’s moratorium on approving gas export projects

A federal court on Monday blocked the Biden administration’s suspension of approving new facilities to export liquefied natural gas, dealing another legal blow to the president’s ambitious climate agenda.

In a decision released late Monday, U.S. District Judge James T. Cain Jr. ruled in favor of Louisiana and 15 other Republican-led states. The judge, appointed by Donald Trump, wrote that the suspension was “absolutely devoid of reason or logic and perhaps an epiphany of ideology.” [sic].”

The ruling represents the latest example of how the Justice Department is curbing President Biden’s climate goals at the behest of conservative and corporate opponents. Last week, the conservative majority on the Supreme Court issued a pair of rulings that severely curtailed the authority of federal agencies to address climate change, air pollution and other pressing environmental problems.

The White House announced in January that the Department of Energy would temporarily approve new liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects while studying their effects on climate change, the economy and national security. The president’s order was poised to delay the approval of more than a dozen LNG projects ahead of the November election.

The moratorium has no effect on LNG projects already approved or under construction. But Republican attorneys general from 16 states argued the White House illegally bypassed the regulatory process to grant the moratorium, which they said would destroy their fossil-fuel-based economies.

Louisiana Attorney General Liz Murrill (R) praised the ruling Monday, calling it a “huge victory for American energy.”

“As Judge Cain noted in his ruling, our state has approximately $61 billion in outstanding infrastructure at risk from this illegal shutdown,” Murrill said in a statement. “LNG is having an enormous and positive impact on Louisiana, providing clean energy to the entire world, and good jobs at home.”

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Energy Department spokeswoman Charisma Troiano said in an email that the agency “disapproves of today’s decision. The department is continuously reviewing the court’s order and evaluating the next steps,” he said.

The ruling means the Energy Department will have to reconsider permit applications for new LNG export projects. But it’s unclear how soon the company will be operational; The Natural Gas Act says only that the department must determine “promptly” whether the projects are “in the public interest.”

US LNG exports have doubled in the past four years. Projects already approved and under construction are expected to double U.S. LNG export capacity again over the next four years. Almost all these projects There are already several petrochemical plants located in an industrial area along the Gulf Coast, mostly in Louisiana and Texas.

Roishetta Ocean, founder of Louisiana’s Ship Project, an environmental justice group, said the decision could leave poor and minority communities along the Gulf Coast burdened by more pollution.

“If they continue to approve these projects, it will mean more pollution in our communities,” Osane said in an interview Monday.

Environmentalists have slammed Kaine’s decision last year to rule in favor of Louisiana and the fossil fuel industry in a dispute over offshore oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

“It’s no surprise that a Trump judge would bend the law and let the oil industry win,” Craig Segal, vice president of climate advocacy group Evergreen Action, said in a statement. “…Corporate polluters have gone shopping to find a Trump-appointed ideologue to embrace a narrow-minded, profit-driven view of advancing their fossil fuel agenda without regard for the impact on communities, the climate or domestic energy prices.”

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White House spokesmen did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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