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Judge Orders Biden Administration to Resume Permits for Gas Exports

A federal judge on Monday ordered the Biden administration to resume issuing permits for new liquefied natural gas export facilities after the government had paused that process in January to analyze how those exports affect climate change, the economy and national security.

The decision, from the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, comes in response to a lawsuit from 16 Republican state attorneys general, who argued that the pause amounted to a ban that harmed their states’ economies. Many of those states, including Louisiana, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming, produce significant amounts of natural gas.

The judge, James D. Cain Jr., who was appointed by President Donald J. Trump, wrote in his decision that the states had demonstrated that they had lost jobs, royalties and taxes that would have flowed had permits for gas exports continued.

Texas, for example, projected that it would lose $259.8 million in tax revenues associated with natural gas production over five years as a result of the pause of permitting.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm has said that she expects that the analysis of L.N.G. exports, which is being conducted by her agency, would be completed late this year.

But Judge Cain agreed with the attorneys general that the states were being harmed.

“The Court finds that the lost or delayed revenues tied to natural gas production is a concrete and imminent injury that supports standing,” Judge Cain wrote.

Elizabeth Murrill, the attorney general of Louisiana, said in a statement: “Liquid natural gas has an enormous and positive impact on Louisiana, supplying clean energy for the entire world, and providing good jobs here at home. The people of Louisiana are proud to power this national and the world. A major victory for American energy.”

Angelo Fernández Hernández, a White House spokesman, said the administration was disappointed by the ruling. “We remain committed to informing our decisions with the best available economic and environmental analysis, underpinned by sound science,” he said in a statement.

The United States is the world’s largest exporter of L.N.G. and, even with the pause, is expected to more than double existing capacity by the end of this decade because of projects that have already been approved. The country has seven active terminals with another five under construction. An additional 17 projects have been seeking permits.

The Biden administration decided in January to halt approvals of new liquid natural gas facilities after climate activists campaigned against Calcasieu Pass 2, a proposed $10 billion project in Louisiana. If completed, Calcasieu Pass 2 would be the largest natural gas export terminal in the country and would increase the country’s daily gas exports by about 20 percent. Last week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission voted 2 to 1 to approve the project, leaving the export terminal permit as the last remaining hurdle.

The pause also affected five other projects that applied to export gas to countries that do not have free-trade agreements with the United States.

The protests over Calcasieu Pass 2 came as President Biden sought to shore up his support among climate activists, an important constituency. Despite the fact that Mr. Biden signed the most significant climate law in the nation’s history, young climate activists in particular have been disappointed by his administration’s approval of oil drilling like Willow, an enormous drilling project in pristine Alaskan wilderness.

In announcing the pause in January, Mr. Biden framed the decision as rooted in concerns about climate change.

“In every corner of the country and the world, people are suffering the devastating toll of climate change,” Mr. Biden said in a statement at the time. “This pause on new L.N.G. approvals sees the climate crisis for what it is: the existential threat of our time.”

Environmental groups from the Louisiana Gulf Coast, where pollution from L.N.G. facilities has affected the health of residents, want an outright ban on new exports.

The pause in permits galvanized oil and gas companies against Mr. Biden, according to industry lobbyists. Three oil executives hosted a fund-raiser in Houston in May to benefit Mr. Trump, who has promised to restart L.N.G. permits.

The pause was announced a month after the United States joined nearly 200 nations at a United Nations climate summit in promising to transition away from fossil fuels.

A complex fight has emerged over the role of L.N.G. as countries try to move to cleaner energy.

Natural gas, which is primarily composed of methane, is cleaner than coal when it is burned. But methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas in the short term, compared with carbon dioxide. And it can leak…

Read More: Judge Orders Biden Administration to Resume Permits for Gas Exports

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