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Federal approval is delayed for some pending liquified natural gas export projects

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

The Biden administration is pausing a proposed natural gas export terminal along Louisiana's Gulf Coast. Now, the delay, which was officially announced this morning, could last beyond November, past Election Day, and could end over a dozen proposed projects. It applies only to new exports, not existing ones, with exceptions for emergencies. Liquefied natural gas - or LNG - from the U.S. has been in high demand, particularly in Europe after Russia cut its gas exports to the continent in response to sanctions for its war in Ukraine. Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called out the president for the decision.

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MITCH MCCONNELL: The administration's war on affordable domestic energy has been bad news for American workers and consumers alike.

MARTÍNEZ: Environmental groups and activists have long called for a hard stop of new LNG export permits due to their greenhouse gas emissions, and President Biden is after their support in his reelection campaign. We're joined now by White House national climate adviser Ali Zaidi. Why this decision to expand and delay the review process of LNG export facilities? Why was it made now?

ALI ZAIDI: Look, this is an important step by the Biden-Harris administration, and it comes at an important time. We have consistently met our target of standing with our allies and partners in Europe in '22 and '23 and projected to in the coming years exceed the targets we've set as part of our task force. But at the same time, we stare down real climate crisis. And those challenges are ones that we must reckon with. They've been a core part of President Biden's agenda here at home and around the world. Just a few weeks ago, we were all at a U.N. conference where the globe decided that we needed to transition away from fossil fuels. This temporary pause gives us the time to do the economic and environmental analysis to measure twice, to make sure that we're understanding the implications of the future potential buildout of this long-life infrastructure.

MARTÍNEZ: How much is this decision based on poll after poll that shows that President Biden gets bad approval ratings from people on climate change, on how he handles climate change? Does that have anything to do with this decision at all?

ZAIDI: This decision flows, I think, very clearly from the president's incredibly strong leadership on climate change, which has been front and center from Day 1. He walked into office, signed the United States back into the Paris Agreement. He reversed rollbacks that undermined our public health, our environment and our energy security. He set forth a domestic climate agenda that's delivered the largest investment in climate change not just here in the United States but around the world, and as a result, has made, really, the U.S. the magnet for private investment.

A hundred factories for clean energy and counting announced around the country, over a million EVs sold last year and, really, the world rallying around the president's call for greater ambition. So this is the next step in a presidency where the president very clearly, from Day 1, has been unafraid to follow the facts, dedicated to listening to the science and front line communities and has had, I think, a very strong commitment to taking climate action.

MARTÍNEZ: Is it the next step into eventually ending LNG exports?

ZAIDI: Look, the Department of Energy is launching this process to study the economics, the environmental implications. We've had folks from U.S. manufacturing sector just in the last few days call for this sort of review to make sure we're thinking about the implications for costs and competitiveness here. There have been scientists over the last decade, five years and year who've called for increased scrutiny on the implications from a greenhouse gas perspective. So this is responsive to that, and we will follow the facts.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. That's White House national climate adviser Ali Zaidi. Thank you very much for your time.

ZAIDI: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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