U.S. Lawmakers Hold First of Two Hearings on Biden's LNG Pause

(Reuters) — As Republican and some Democratic U.S. lawmakers slam President Joe Biden's pause on approvals of exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) a House subcommittee held a hearing on the issue on Tuesday, the first of two in Congress this week.

Biden, a Democrat, paused approvals for new exports from LNG projects indefinitely so his administration can take a "hard look" at the environmental and economic impacts of increased shipments.

The House Energy, Climate and Grid Security Subcommittee hearing features Toby Rice, the CEO of EQT — the largest U.S. natural gas producer — and Gillian Gianetti, a lawyer at the Natural Resources Defense Council non-profit that applauded Biden's move.

Environmentalists and youth groups, an important part of Biden's base, had pressured the administration to slow approvals of fossil fuel projects due to climate concerns.

A broad range of domestic businesses ranging from chemicals, steel, food and agriculture, also oppose unrestricted exports of U.S. gas, saying it could raise fuel prices and make domestic supplies less reliable.

Representative August Pfluger, a Republican, this month introduced legislation that would strip the Department of Energy of its power to approve exports, leaving the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, an independent panel, with the sole authority of the LNG approval process.

If such a measure passed the House, controlled by Republicans, it could struggle in the Senate, where Democrats have a narrow majority.

The U.S. exported more LNG than any other country last year and is expected to double shipments by the end of the decade with fully approved projects.

Some lawmakers claim the pause will hurt energy security of U.S. partners and allies. A letter from 150 House Republicans on Sunday to Biden said Europeans were "desperately seeking American energy to counter Russia's weaponization of its natural gas exports."

Europe will have enough gas supply for the 10 years and beyond despite the pause, EU energy officials and analysts said, dismissing industry's warnings. The pause comes with exceptions for supply emergencies.

The Senate Energy Committee, chaired by Senator Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat from gas-producing West Virginia, has a hearing scheduled on Thursday, with Deputy U.S. Energy Secretary David Turk.

Democratic Senators Bob Casey and John Fetterman of gas-producing Pennsylvania have said if the decision puts jobs at risk they will push the administration to reverse the pause.

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