Shannon Van Hoesen, email@example.com
WASHINGTON, DC– The Sierra Club, with partners, sent a letter today urging the Department of Energy (DOE) to take long overdue action in response to a petition for rulemaking regarding liquefied methane gas (LNG) export policy filed by the groups in 2013. Friends of the Earth, Earthworks, Environment America, Delaware Riverkeeper, and the Center for Biological Diversity signed the petition and joined the Sierra Club in sending today’s letter. The original petition points to the fact that DOE has never specifically articulated a policy for reviewing LNG export applications. Without such a policy, DOE has failed to weigh the environmental and public health impacts of increased fracked gas production for export, nor adequately consider the economic impacts on American consumers who face higher energy prices in the face of increased exports of that gas overseas.
A number of environmental, consumer advocacy, and community groups not affiliated with the original petition also submitted letters to DOE laying out why this review of gas export policy is so crucial for public health, economic justice, and the climate. This included around 50 total signers on letters from Gulf Coast community groups, environmental justice organizations led by WE ACT for Environmental Justice, consumer and economic justice groups led by Public Citizen, and a broad coalition of environmental and community organizations led by the National Resources Defense Council’s Sustainable FERC Project.
Sierra Club’s letter (as well as the original petition) calls on DOE to put in place updated regulations or guidance for gas exports that set clear rules for determining whether those applications are in the public interest, as required by law under the Natural Gas Act. It also asks DOE to open a public comment period to inform this guidance, in order to solicit input from affected stakeholders. While a transparent framework for evaluating gas export applications was needed in 2013, it is an even more pressing issue today, as the climate crisis deepens and over 20 export facilities are proposed in the U.S. Today, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released its 2022 World Energy Outlook doubling down on its groundbreaking call last year that we must end licensing and finance for new fossil fuel extraction globally if we are to avoid the most damaging impacts of global warming. IEA also notes that fossil fuels are not the solution to energy security or affordability concerns.
Sited primarily in communities of color, proposed LNG export facilities would perpetuate environmental injustice. New and expanded gas export facilities would harm Gulf Coast communities that are already overburdened by industrial pollution from the fossil fuel industry as well as the effects of extreme weather driven by climate change. A new Sierra Club US LNG tracker illustrates the outsized impacts of LNG export pollution and emissions on these communities.
Exports also affect Americans across the country through higher energy prices. According to the EIA’s Winter Fuels Outlook 2022, the average US household that heats primarily with gas will spend 62% more this winter for gas bills than two years ago. Both EIA and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission acknowledge LNG exports play a role in this drastic price increase, a burden that is especially hard to bear for fixed- and low-income households.
In reaction to the submission of their letters to DOE, groups issued the following statements:
Talia Calnek-Sugin, Sierra Club’s Associate Director of Legislative and Administrative Advocacy for the Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign, said:
“More than nine years ago, we called on the Department of Energy to establish a fair and transparent framework for approving gas exports that ensured they were in the interest of the American public. Since then, DOE has approved over 40 export permits to non-FTA countries, with disastrous effects for frontline communities, American consumers, and the future of our planet. The methane gas export permits sought by large oil and gas companies are based on greed, not real need, as these energy companies continue to reap windfall profits while Americans pay a premium on their energy bills. The massive buildout of LNG export facilities poses an unacceptable burden to predominantly low-income communities of color who have been sacrificed to the fossil fuel industry for far too long. If the Biden Administration is serious about upholding its environmental justice promises or climate commitments, impacts on frontline communities and lifecycle emissions considerations must be factored into any public interest determination of gas exports.”
James Hiatt, Louisiana Bucket Brigade’s Southwest Louisiana Coordinator, said:
“We’re paying for these gas exports with energy prices through the roof, health impacts from pollution, and increasing climate disasters. LNG exports burden American consumers while also competitively disadvantaging American manufacturing, which may ultimately lead to layoffs and shuttering of companies. While communities struggle to pay utility bills, gas companies are making a killing — literally and financially.”
Tyson Slocum, Public Citizen’s Energy Program Director, said:
“Record LNG exports are causing economic insecurity for tens of millions of Americans. The direct correlation between exports and punishing heating and electricity price increases is exacerbating energy poverty. Despite the statutory mandate for the Department of Energy to only allow exports that are consistent with the public interest, the agency performs no analysis to determine the equity impacts on the nation’s most vulnerable households, and conducts no review of the effects of high prices on communities of color. And it cannot be consistent with the public interest to allow LNG exporters and traders to price-gouge Europeans for shipping US gas. The Dept of Energy must accept the petition to protect American families struggling under the weight of LNG exports.”
Anastasia Gordon, WE ACT for Environmental Justice’s Energy and Transportation Policy Manager said:
“The unprecedented growth of US LNG exports has come at too high a cost; not just for the climate and our energy bills, but also for areas of low-income, people of color, and Indigenous communities already adversely impacted by the fossil fuel industry. Under current outdated guidelines, the Department of Energy will continue to greenlight gas exports that will compound economic hardships, health burdens, safety risks, and climate impacts on frontline communities for years to come and compromise our ability to achieve our national commitments to climate and environmental justice. That’s why WE ACT and the Environmental Justice Leadership Forum joins the call for the Department to take these impacts into consideration in the public interest determination for LNG exports to safeguard overburdened communities, stabilize domestic energy prices, and tackle the climate crisis.”
Melanie Oldham, Citizens for Clean Air and Clean Water of Brazoria County’s Founder and Chairman, said:
“In June 2022, an explosion at Freeport LNG literally rocked my community. Liquefying and transporting compressed gas is an inherently risky process, and communities like mine on the frontlines of these export facilities bear the brunt of this risk not only in the form of explosions, but also high levels of air pollution, disruption to our fishing and tourism industries, and increasingly powerful climate-change-induced hurricanes and storms. It is important that the Biden Administration take into account these costs to communities like mine before permitting LNG export facilities.”
Morgan Johnson, staff attorney for Sustainable FERC Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), said:
“DOE needs an updated policy designed for LNG exports, and the public deserves a meaningful chance to weigh in on it—especially low-income communities and communities of color, who face many of the first and worst harms of LNG exports. Approving LNG exports freely harms public health, the climate, and environmental justice communities. But when reviewing applications, the Biden administration continues to rely on Reagan-era policy guidelines that were designed for LNG imports. It’s time to bring LNG policies into the 21st century.”
About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with millions of members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.