The Biden administration’s decision to halt new LNG exports is generating bipartisan pushback across the country, ranging from progressives like Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman to establishment figures like Delaware Sen. Chris Coons. That criticism of the administration’s decision has also been prominent in Colorado, the fourth largest oil and gas producing state where the industry supports over 303,000 jobs.
Colorado Lawmakers on The Record
Reps. Yadira Caraveo (D) and Doug Lamborn (R) signed a letter to the Biden administration on Thursday, calling on Biden to reconsider the pause on permitting for new natural gas terminals.
Rep. Yadira Caraveo (D) & Rep. Doug Lamborn (R) write to President Biden re: decision to pause LNG exports to countries w/o free-trade agreements. "A pause on new LNG export approvals could have a devastating impact both on Colorado’s economy and our international partners." pic.twitter.com/qSvTO3XndJ
— Caitlyn Kim (@caitlynkim) February 1, 2024
The letter cited the critical role American LNG plays in supplying EU nations since Russia’s invasion, and warned that the administration’s decision “will have a chilling effect on the gas sector, and cause real harm to Colorado consumers and workers.”
Caraveo’s presence on the letter is particularly striking given she represents Colorado’s 8th Congressional district encompassing Adams and Weld counties, home to the vast majority of Colorado’s energy production. The first term Democrat is facing a hotly contested reelection battle in the state’s most competitive Congressional district after prevailing by less than 2000 votes in 2022.
Biden’s announcement drew a similar criticism from Sen. John Hickenlooper, who sits on the U.S. Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee. In comments to Politico the first term Senator warned the administration against creating “needless levels of what ends up becoming red tape” for future LNG exports.
Both the Senate ENR Committee and the House Energy & Commerce Committee subcommittee on Energy, Climate, and Grid Security Subcommittee Hearing have hearings scheduled to discuss the Biden administration’s LNG pause next week, making it possible we could hear from Colorado members further.
A White House press release last week quoting members of Congress and anti-fossil fuel activists praising the LNG pause included only one Colorado Democrat backing the decision, Denver Rep. Diana DeGette.
Conspicuously absent in the White House’s release were any other Centennial State Democrats, including progressives in House leadership like Boulder Rep. Joe Neguse. Neither Sen. Bennet nor Colorado Gov. Jared Polis appear to have weighed in on Biden’s announcement. Polis has a record of skepticism when it comes to Colorado LNG exports and has been a longtime critic of Colorado’s natural gas industry, making his lack of reaction to the administration’s announcement even more pronounced.
Industry Speaks Out on Impacts
While the administration framed the pause as a means to study the environmental impacts of LNG exports, this week Kathleen Sgamma of the Western Energy Alliance slammed the environmental arguments offered by the White House. Pausing export permits is not a regulatory requirement to study environmental impacts, she said speaking to CNBC, and evidence continues to show American LNG is responsible for driving down more greenhouse gas emissions than any other nation.
— Western Energy Alliance (@WesternEnergy1) January 30, 2024
Colorado Lawmakers Have History Of Supporting Exports
Natural gas exports to EU nations have long been an area of bipartisan support in Colorado, especially since Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
In October Sen. Bennet praised American LNG exports as a means to both displace emissions from “really dirty Chinese coal” and “help Europe stay in this fight” against Vladimir Putin:
“We’re in the position because we’ve got abundant fossil fuels already, we’re in the position to help Europe stay in this fight with our exports of Liquified Natural Gas.”
At the same October Colorado Sun event Sen. Hickenlooper explicitly addressed activists opposed to LNG exports, telling reporter Jesse Paul that “drilling those extra wells” in America are critical to reduce emissions from coal in southeast Asia:
“A lot of people disagree with that, but at the same time when you replace coal (with natural gas) the reduction in carbon emissions is so dramatic that it’s worth drilling those extra wells.”
Bennet has also called out critics of LNG exports on numerous occasions, writing in a 2017 USA Today op-ed that “saying no to responsible production of natural gas—which emits half the carbon of the dirtiest coal and is the cleanest fossil fuel—surrenders progress for purity.”
An administration official with the Department of Energy this week said their LNG study will take several months, at which point the President will further evaluate the future of natural gas exports.
Bottom Line: The Biden administration’s decision to pause LNG exports could have a far-reaching rippling effect both domestically and abroad – a fact Colorado’s leaders have been quick to speak up about.
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