Georgia's sole facility for exporting liquefied natural gas, located just east of Savannah, could be affected by a new order issued by President Joe Biden which seeks to limit LNG exports.
The U.S. Department of Energy announced Friday that it will indefinitely pause the approval of new LNG export facilities in order to give federal regulators time to reassess the impacts of natural gas on the environment, economy and national security.
Along the Savannah River on Elba Island sits Southern LNG, one of only two LNG export facilities on the East Coast. Current operations would not be affected by the new order, but future expansions to its exports to non-free trade agreement countries would be prohibited while the order remains in effect, according to White House National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi.
Southern LNG submitted an application to federal regulators last year requesting an expansion to the facility, which would increase its exports to non-FTA countries by 28.25 billion cubic feet per year through 2050.
“We're learning more and more about lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions,” Zaidi said in an interview with GPB, referring to methane emissions from LNG. “What's going on upstream? What's going on midstream? What's going on downstream? What happens when you chill the gas? What happens when you ship it?
“I'm not here to offer a conclusion on that,” he continued. “I'm here to say that those are really important questions when you're building long-life infrastructure. And that's why the [Department of Energy] is taking a hard look. We've got to investigate these things, especially when we're in the middle of really what is a climate crisis.”
Southern LNG is currently authorized to export 130 billion cubic feet to non-FTA countries and 182.5 billion cubic feet to FTA countries.
The U.S. currently has free trade agreements with 20 countries, including Canada, Mexico and several Central American countries, among others. It does not have a free trade agreement with any European country such as Ukraine, which has been in high demand for natural gas since Russia's invasion in February 2022.
The Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, a trade group which represents the natural gas pipeline industries in the U.S. and Canada, criticized Biden's decision as “misguided” and one that would amount to “abandoning” Ukraine.
“The administration needs to appreciate that even a ‘pause’ on approvals can potentially cause devasting ripple effects on national security, energy investments, the supply chain, and American workers and consumers,” INGAA said in a statement.
Southern LNG parent company Kinder Morgan, which is based in Texas and is a member of INGAA, declined GPB's request for comment.