Texas Speaker Dade Phelan creates committee to examine Biden pause on LNG facility permits

Speaker of the Texas House Dade Phelan (left) speaks next to Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday, March 19, 2024, at the University of Texas at Dallas. (Shafkat Anowar/The Dallas Morning News/TNS)
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By Aarón Torres | Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN — House Speaker Dade Phelan created a special committee Monday to examine President Joe Biden’s executive order pausing new permits for facilities that export liquified natural gas, a move that has drawn backlash from the oil industry, Republicans and some Democrats.

Phelan, R-Beaumont, directed the committee’s three Republicans and two Democrats to determine if the Biden administration had the authority to freeze the permits and assess the policy’s economic, social and environmental impact.

The panel was given until May 13 to report its findings.

“President Biden’s abrupt decision earlier this year to pause pending approvals of LNG export projects will likely have significant economic implications for Texas, and it is important we fully understand what a prolonged pause would mean for our state’s thriving energy sector,” Phelan said Monday.

Rep. Jared Patterson, R-Frisco, will chair the Select Committee on Protecting Texas LNG Exports. Other members include Reps. Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa; Cody Vasut, R-Angleton; Christian Manuel, D-Beaumont; and Mary Ann Perez, D-Houston.

Patterson said the pause hurts U.S. allies across the world.

“The US is the top exporter globally of clean, abundant, and inexpensive energy, creating jobs and wealth here at home,” Patterson said.

It was the second special panel Phelan has created ahead of the 2025 legislative session, which begins in January. The other committee was directed to make recommendations related to the devastating Panhandle wildfires that started in late February.

Biden announced the ban in January so his administration could study how exports of liquified natural gas, which is cooled to a liquid state for shipping and storage, affect climate change, a priority in his first term.

“This pause on new LNG approvals sees the climate crisis for what it is: the existential threat of our time,” Biden said Jan. 26. “We will heed the calls of young people and frontline communities who are using their voices to demand action from those with the power to act.”

The oil and gas industry criticized the move.

A view of the Port of Brownsville ship channel Tuesday, March 29, 2022. Houston-based NextDecade Corporation says it expects to make a decision the first quarter of this year whether to build the first phase of its planned Rio Grande LNG facility at the Port of Brownsville, north of the ship channel. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald)

Wayne Christian, a member of the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the oil and gas industry, urged Biden and U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm to continue increasing LNG exports across the world.

Demand for U.S. natural gas rose 43% from 2012-22, making the United States the world’s leading exporter of LNG last year, surpassing Qatar and Australia, the Energy Information Administration said.

Last month, the GOP-led U.S. House passed a bill, largely along party lines, that would strip the Biden administration of its authority to pause permits for gas export facilities.

The bill faces longer odds in the Democratic-controlled Senate, although two Pennsylvania Democrats — Sens. Bob Casey and John Fetterman — oppose the moratorium, saying it could limit jobs. Pennsylvania is the country’s second-largest natural gas producer.

Last week, Texas joined a 15-state federal lawsuit led by Louisiana to block the Biden administration’s freeze on LNG export applications. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Biden’s order was unconstitutional.

“The ban will drive billions of dollars in investment away from Texas, hinder our ability to maximize revenue for public schools, force Texas producers to flare excess natural gas instead of taking it to market and annihilate critical jobs,” Paxton said in a statement Thursday.

The lawsuit said the agency should have followed the regulatory process to give states and the oil and gas industry a chance to comment.

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