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Federal LNG pause may spark ‘electricity crisis’

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(The Center Square) — Pennsylvania’s energy future hangs in the balance amid a federal pause on liquified natural gas production, leaving taxpayers on the hook for more costly and less reliable power.

At least, so say the critics of President Joe Biden’s decision to temporarily block LNG exports – which they say has a particularly devastating impact in the commonwealth.

“We have to put our natural gas to work,” Robert Bair, president of the Pennsylvania State Building and Construction Trades said during a House Republican Policy Committee hearing on Monday.

If Pennsylvania doesn’t do the work, he argued, that other states will.

“I am tired of losing to Texas and Alabama and Louisiana and the Gulf Coast on energy issues,” Bair said. “I am tired of watching people work down there and not Pennsylvania workers.”

The Biden administration said in January the economic and environmental data used to justify LNG exports are outdated and don’t “account for considerations like potential energy cost increases for American consumers and manufacturers beyond current authorizations or the latest assessment of the impact of greenhouse gas emissions.”

Republican legislators argue, however, the hold undermines American economic and environmental goals. Rep. Martina White, R-Philadelphia, has led an LNG Task Force exploring the creation of an LNG hub in southeast Pennsylvania.

“Our task force found this export terminal project could have the potential to create tens of thousands of jobs, billions of dollars in yearly economic output, and hundreds of millions in state and local tax revenues to support both statewide and local community services,” White said.

Without it, she warned that the commonwealth’s energy future faces dramatic problems.

“Pennsylvania is on a direct path for an electricity crisis … President Biden and Governor Shapiro are proposing initiatives that expedite this collision course,” White said.

Industry leaders argued the work they do gets undermined by political leaders and environmental activists.

The pause “is clearly a political stunt orchestrated to satisfy a vocal minority of individuals who want to end the industry that I work in,” EQT Director of Government Affairs John Bain said.

Stopping American LNG, he argued, is “a gift” to Russia, China, and Iran, which use more-destructive production methods and would fill natural gas demand that’s not met by the U.S.

“Now’s not the time to slow down LNG – now’s the time to accelerate it if we’re serious about reducing global emissions,” Bain said.

Carl Marrara, executive director of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association, echoed Bain.

“Environmental opposition has gone from activism to obstructionism,” he said. “Keeping projects from happening in Pennsylvania doesn’t lessen energy demand — it just means it comes from somewhere else.”

He argued that Pennsylvania needs to reform its permitting process for pipeline construction and other infrastructure and streamline the process.

“Manufacturers face backlogs of new construction and expansion permits,” Marrara said. “PA’s land use requirements are far more strict than federal standards, and this should be amended for uniformity and simplicity.”

Inaction on manufacturing and permitting, he argued, can have devastating local effects.

“A community that loses its manufacturer is a community that loses its community. When those manufacturers shut down and go out of state, massive voids are left in their wake,” Marrara said. “Entire communities, entire tax bases vanish.”

Rep. Josh Kail, R-Beaver, argued that growing energy production in the state would help bring back manufacturing and other economic assets.

“The only practical way to reduce carbon emissions is to use Pennsylvania energy,” he said.

“We could literally be exporting freedom,” Kail said. “Europe is dependent on Russia for its energy sources, but it doesn’t have to be. The only reason it is is because we don’t have our act together in the United States of America to build out our energy resources. This maneuver would also be good for our environment because our energy is the cleanest in the world.”

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