Energy Department Refuses to Set Standards for Evaluating New Gas Exports

Agency Denies Ten-Year-Old Petition to Define Exports Consistent with the Public Interest

Shannon Van Hoesen, Sierra Club, (202) 604-2464,
Tracy Carluccio, Delaware River Keeper, (215) 692-2329,
Lauren Parker, Center for Biological Diversity, (202) 868-1008,

WASHINGTON, DC– After a ten-year delay, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on Tuesday denied a petition for rulemaking calling on the agency to issue regulations defining whether proposed gas exports are consistent with the public interest. In response to a March lawsuit for unreasonable delay filed, the agency claimed to have “rigorous standards” for approving gas exports, but failed to lay out what those supposed standards are. DOE has never rejected a project on the grounds of harm to the public interest.

The Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Environment America, and Friends of the Earth submitted the petition to the agency in April 2013. Consumer, environmental, and community organizations sent letters to the agency last fall urging them to respond. When DOE still failed to act, the groups sued

The original petition called on DOE to issue a clear policy for liquified "natural" gas, or LNG, export applications that would establish criteria for determining whether proposed exports are in the public interest, as required by law under the Natural Gas Act. 

Despite the agency’s claims in their delayed response, it does not weigh the broad climate implications of LNG exports and has neglected to account for the localized harms of proposed gas export facilities or the effect of increased exports on the price of domestic gas. With more than 20 export facilities proposed in the U.S., a clear way to evaluate whether gas export applications are in the public interest is more pressing than ever. 

The DOE denial for rulemaking does not mention the words “environmental justice,” even though gas export projects cause demonstrable harm to vulnerable communities. Sited primarily in communities of color, proposed LNG export facilities perpetuate environmental injustice. New and expanded gas export facilities would harm Gulf Coast and Delaware River communities already overburdened by industrial and fossil fuel pollution and on the frontlines of extreme weather driven by climate change. 

Exports also affect people across the country through climate harms and higher energy prices. LNG projects release significant amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas more than 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide over a 20-year timeframe, and a major contributor to the climate crisis. Both the Energy Information Agency and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission acknowledge that increasing LNG exports increases the price of domestic gas, a burden that is especially hard on fixed- and low-income households. 

In reaction to DOE’s response, groups issued the following statements:

Patrick Grenter, Director, Sierra Club Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign, said:
“In their response to our petition for rulemaking and subsequent lawsuit for unreasonable delay, DOE has made it clear that it does not actually have a rigorous standard to determine the public interest of gas exports. Instead, they make ad hoc decisions on a case-by-case basis in order to act as a rubber stamp. We still have no idea what environmental justice or climate impacts a project would have to have to get a denial. While the regulatory landscape remains murky, we will continue to challenge the public interest value of every gas export project going forward.”

Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Director, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, said:
“The Dept. of Energy’s denial of our petition asking them to promulgate rules regarding its process to approve the export of LNG to non-free trade agreement nations is wrong on many fronts. One glaring error is DOE’s neglect of its critical governmental duty to act transparently and provide opportunity for and consideration of the public’s input. DOE’s defense is basically that it knows what it is doing and doesn’t think it’s important to be held to any standards other than what they have set up in their insular silo, set apart from the world of public discourse and participation, determining the public interest without any structure for public input. They even boast that their self-serving process is successful in court, ignoring that keeping the public out of their decisionmaking process unjustly handicaps legal challenges. This is unacceptable and has led to bad decisions that negatively impact communities across the nation.” 

Lauren Parker, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute, said:
“It’s absolutely galling that the Energy Department refuses to show the public how they make gas export decisions that affect everything from our wallets to the planet. After 10 long years reviewing this petition, the department concludes that it knows best and the public should blindly follow its lead. With every fossil fuel project approval, DOE is rubberstamping the way to climate destruction and the public deserves to know about it.” 

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