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Manchin promises to investigate Biden natural gas export freeze

Senate Energy Committee Chair Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), one of the Biden administration’s most vocal intraparty critics on energy issues, vowed an investigation into the newly announced pause on liquefied natural gas (LNG) export approvals.

In a statement Friday morning, Manchin implied the decision to implement the pause was based on political considerations rather than “indisputable facts,” citing LNG production’s economic benefits and the role of American exports in isolating the Russian energy sector after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

”I have always said that our first concern must be protecting American consumers and growing American businesses, and we need a safety valve in place to ensure Americans aren’t unnecessarily stuck paying a premium for the abundant resources we’re blessed to have,” Manchin said. “But as the superpower of the world, we also have a responsibility to our allies and trading partners who, in our absence, may have no other choice but to turn to countries that don’t share our values. That’s been made abundantly clear in the last two years as we have been able to step in to replace Russian natural gas to cut off funds for Putin’s bombs and bullets.”

Manchin, who is not seeking reelection this year, said he will hold hearings of the energy committee on the decision to “unveil the facts about the true state of play in the markets, this Administration’s motivations, and their implications.”

The Biden administration confirmed Friday it will halt export permit approvals while it assesses impacts on emissions and domestic energy costs, saying the current export permitting process does not sufficiently assess these factors. The delay will specifically apply to countries that lack free-trade agreements with the U.S. Existing export projects will not be affected.

“During this period, we will take a hard look at the impacts of LNG exports on energy costs, America’s energy security, and our environment,” President Biden said in a statement. “This pause on new LNG approvals sees the climate crisis for what it is: the existential threat of our time.”

Manchin has frequently blasted the Biden administration’s energy and environmental policies, sinking the White House’s ambitious Build Back Better climate and infrastructure package earlier in the president’s tenure by withholding his vote. Manchin later voted for the smaller Inflation Reduction Act, but he has been a harsh detractor of its implementation, particularly pertaining to electric vehicles.

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