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Biden seeks to appease progressives with climate moves

The Biden administration is looking to appease progressives who want it to block proposed expansions of the nation’s natural gas exports.

With the 2024 election looming and some left-wing voters souring on President Biden, the administration appears poised to deliver at least a partial win to the Democratic Party’s progressive wing by taking steps to elevate climate concerns on the matter and potentially delay proposed projects.

Left-wing lawmakers and voters have been pushing the administration to reject proposed terminals that would ship American-produced natural gas abroad, citing their potential negative impacts on the climate. Now, the administration is reportedly set to implement stricter climate reviews for the projects — and could slow them down.

In deciding whether to approve such projects, the administration is required under federal law to determine whether they are in the “public interest.”

It is expected to review the public interest criteria — and particularly whether climate considerations should be added, Politico first reported this month.

An announcement is expected soon, an environmental source told The Hill this week.

And while the administration is reviewing the criteria, it is also expected to pause any new approvals, the source said.

The New York Times reported Wednesday that the move would delay a major proposed gas terminal known as CP2, which has come under particular fire from climate activists.

A spokesperson for the White House declined to comment. A spokesperson for the Energy Department did not respond to a request for comment.

The expected announcement comes as the administration faces disillusionment from some progressive voters — a concern for Biden ahead of the coming election, as his reelection chances could hinge on whether or not the progressive wing of the Democratic base turns out in November.

A fall 2023 poll from Harvard found that young voters are less likely to vote in 2024 than they were in 2020.

Biden has particularly faced left-wing criticism over his handling of the war in Gaza and scrutiny over his age. He also upset the environmentalist left, which includes a significant proportion of young voters, last year when he approved the Willow Project, a massive oil-drilling project in Alaska.

After the approval of that project, many climate activists turned their attention to the pending natural gas export project applications, especially the CP2 project.

Reports that Biden would seek to delay the CP2 project and require it to undergo a climate review drew praise from progressives and environmental organizations.

“This is a huge win for the scientists, activists, and young people who spoke out and made this possible,” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) wrote in a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Climate activist Bill McKibben wrote on X, ”Um, I think we all just won.”

In a post on Substack, he added that the expected move was also “very very savvy,” since “Biden wants young people, who care about climate above all, in his corner.”

Shaylyn Hynes, a spokesperson for Venture Global, the company behind the CP2 project, said in a written statement that it “appears that individuals within the White House are trying to force policymaking through leaks to the media.”

She said that a pause “would shock the global energy market … and send a devastating signal to our allies that they can no longer rely on the United States.”

Natural gas, like other fossil fuels oil and coal, contributes to climate change when it is burned. Burning gas releases fewer emissions than burning oil or coal, but environmental activists have noted that the fuel’s production also produces emissions.

Proponents of the fuel have pointed to its ability to replace oil and coal, and argue that getting more natural gas online in the U.S. would, in the future, make countries less reliant on other producers like Russia.

And while environmental activists broadly praised the anticipated move from the Biden administration as a significant step in the right direction, some said that a pause and expanded climate review on the proposed export expansion would not be enough on their own, and that the projects should be stopped.

“Growing national pressure from youth and frontline communities to end fossil fuel expansion got us here. Now the administration needs to go the full nine yards and reject CP2 and all new oil and gas projects,” Jean Su, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Energy Justice program, said in a written statement.

Zack Budryk contributed.

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