State AGs warn Biden's natural gas moratorium violates federal law, demand reversal

FIRST ON FOX: A coalition of 22 Republican state attorneys general are warning President Biden that his recent moratorium on liquefied natural gas (LNG) export projects is unlawful.

The top state officials, led by Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach, penned a letter to Biden and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, listing a series of federal statutes the administration’s recent actions allegedly violate and urging the pair to immediately reverse course. The AGs further argued that the policy pausing LNG exports would harm national security and have negative economic impacts.

“Instead of addressing America’s real energy challenges, your administration has decided to double down on a reckless environmental agenda through this TikTok-inspired ‘pause,’” they wrote in the letter. “But this surprise freeze is (1) unlawful, (2) harmful to our economy, and (3) detrimental to our national security.  It emboldens and empowers Iran and Russia, while further hampering our ability to protect ourselves.”

“Although your administration has put this country in a difficult situation through this LNG ‘pause,’ you still have time to change course. Your administration does not have to recklessly continue down an unlawful path that harms our economic and national security interests,” Kobach and the other attorney general continued. “You can and must reverse course by immediately ending this ‘pause.'”


Kris Kobach

Republican Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach speaks at a press conference outside his office in Topeka on May 1, 2023. (AP Photo/John Hanna/File)

Late last month, Biden ordered the Department of Energy (DOE) to pause pending permits for LNG export facilities while federal officials conduct a rigorous environmental review assessing the projects’ carbon emissions, which could take more than a year to complete. The action represents a major victory for activists who have loudly called for such a move, even threatening to hold large protests over the issue.

The president said the pause on LNG permitting was a part of his sweeping climate agenda, adding the action “sees the climate crisis for what it is: the existential threat of our time.” He also took aim at “MAGA Republicans” for willfully denying the “urgency of the climate crisis.”


However, in their letter, the attorneys general argue DOE fails to identify under which authority it is pausing LNG exports. The agency, they write, “literally has no power to act — including under its regulations — unless and until Congress authorizes it to do so by statute,” adding that DOE instead justified its actions by pointing to a climate-focused executive order Biden issued.

The attorneys general further argue that DOE cannot rely on the 1938 Natural Gas Act, which requires the agency to approve applications to export LNG to non-Free Trade Agreement countries unless such exportation is not “consistent with the public interest.”

Biden LNG export DOE

President Biden ordered pending natural gas export projects to be halted in a stunning move Friday. The action was cheered by environmentalists who oppose fossil fuel development. (Getty Images)

“Here, you have signaled every intention to deny a sweeping category of exports based on allusions to environmental harms,” they added in the letter. “Your administration and its allies appear to be “seizing on regulatory loopholes and prejudging the outcomes of complicated policy analysis.”

“Agency predetermination is bad enough, but it’s doubly wrong when it conflicts with Congress’s express purpose in enacting the statute.”

In addition, they say DOE’s moratorium may give rise to liability under the Administrative Procedure Act “for unreasonable delay.” That 1946 law mandates federal agencies provide sufficient reasoning for rules and regulations they implement.


Under the Administrative Procedure Act, federal agencies are prohibited from creating an “unreasonable delay” when fulfilling a congressional requirement. Since DOE is indefinitely pausing LNG export permits, which it is required to issue under the Natural Gas Act, the attorneys general said the agency’s actions amount to such an unreasonable delay.

They also said LNG export terminals must already go through an environmental review when they are approved by the independent Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). LNG export projects must first survive FERC’s lengthy approval process before they are even ripe for DOE approval.

Jennifer Granholm

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said her agency is committed to “protecting Americans against climate change as we lead the world into a clean energy future” after announcing the moratorium last month. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images)

The attorneys general also argued that, beyond “unreasonable delay,” DOE’s moratorium fails to stay “within the bounds of reasoned decision-making” as required by federal statute. And the agency never opened the decision up for a public comment period before implementing it, another potential statutory violation.

“The Biden Admin’s hatred of American energy has reached a new extreme,” Kobach told Fox News Digital in a statement. “This moratorium on liquefied natural gas exports is both illegal and irrational. This natural gas policy is going to blow up in the Administration’s face.”

“The people of Louisiana are proud to power this nation. Joe Biden’s latest assault on LNG exports threatens thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in infrastructure investment in our state,” added Louisiana Attorney General Liz Murrill. “It also creates international instability and hurts developing democracies worldwide. I won’t allow this president to hold our people and our economy hostage.”


In their letter, the attorneys general echoed energy industry associations and Republican lawmakers, saying that the DOE’s moratorium weakens national security and emboldens Russia and other adversaries who are large producers of natural gas. 

The Asia Vision LNG carrier ship sits docked at the Cheniere Energy Inc. terminal in this aerial photograph taken over Sabine Pass, Texas, U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016. Cheniere said in a statement last month. Cheniere Energy Inc. expects to ship the first cargo of liquefied natural gas on Wednesday to Brazil with another tanker to be loaded a few days later, marking the historic start of U.S. shale exports and sending its shares up the most in more than a month. Photographer: Lindsey Janies/Bloomberg via Getty Images

An LNG carrier ship is docked at the Cheniere Energy terminal in a photograph taken over Sabine Pass, Texas. (Lindsey Janies/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

In December 2023, more than 87% of U.S. LNG exports went to Europe, U.K. or Asian markets. In the aftermath of Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, energy experts argued LNG exports would be critical for helping American allies to wean off Russian gas.

And the industry has cited research indicating that LNG exports could add as much as $73 billion to the U.S. economy by 2040, create 453,000 American jobs and increase U.S. purchasing power by $30 billion.


“We hoped that your administration would have considered this and the economic and national security implications before announcing the pause, but this does not appear to be the case,” the letter concluded.

“This decision harms our national security and will cost lives. We urge your administration to stop making decisions based on the whims of social media influencers and treat this matter seriously by reversing this reckless decision.”

Fox News Digital reached out to the White House for comment.

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