Federal Judge Deals Blow to Biden’s LNG Permit Pause

The ruling said the US Department of Energy must resume reviewing permits for domestic LNG export projects.

The ExxonMobil-led $10-billion Golden Pass LNG export terminal in Sabine Pass, Texas, is stated to begin operations in early 2025.
Source: Golden Pass LNG

A federal judge in Louisiana has issued a preliminary injunction effectively blocking the Biden administration’s pause on new LNG export facility approvals. Judge James Cain of the US District Court for the Western District of Louisiana in an order late Monday that ruled in favor of Louisiana and 15 other states that challenged the pause, wrote that the US Department of Energy's (DOE) export pause “is completely without reason or logic” and would be “stayed in its entirety, effective immediately.”

The decision came less than 2 weeks after hearing arguments in the case. It is unclear if the Biden administration will appeal the decision.

The DOE expressed its disappointment with the ruling, noting that the US already hosts an LNG export capacity at 14 Bcf/D, and that number is forecast to grow substantially over the next few years.

Biden announced in January that a temporary pause on pending decisions on exports of LNG to non-free trade agreement countries would be in place until the DOE can update the underlying analyses for authorizations, including their effects on climate change, the economy, and national security. The directive was poised to delay the approval of several projects past the November election.

The states had argued that freezing the review process was unconstitutional.

“This is great news for Louisiana, our 16 state partners in this fight, and the entire country,” said Louisiana Attorney General Liz Murrill. “As Judge Cain mentioned in his ruling, there is roughly $61 billion of pending infrastructure at risk to our state from this illegal pause. LNG 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 nation and the world. A major victory for American energy.”

The ruling means the DOE must resume consideration of LNG facility permits but does not guarantee approvals. It remains unclear how soon the agency will return to preruling reviews.

The Biden administration’s pause affected exports for pending LNG projects, including Commonwealth LNG and Venture Global’s CP2 project in Louisiana, as well as the second phase of Sempra’s Port Arthur LNG project in Texas.

As of last November, the US Energy Information Administration said the US had five LNG export projects currently under construction with a combined 9.7 Bcf/D of LNG export capacity—Golden Pass, Plaquemines, Corpus Christi Stage III, Rio Grande, and Port Arthur. Developers expect LNG exports from Plaquemines LNG to start in 2024 and Golden Pass in the first half of 2025.