Fresh Off Their Major Victory On Gas Export Terminals, Enviros Set Sights On New Target: Oil Exports

(Photo via Reuters/Michael A. McCoy)

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Nick Pope Contributor
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Months after President Joe Biden handed environmentalists a major win by pausing new liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals, activist groups are beginning to turn their attention to deepwater oil export hubs.

A coalition of 19 climate activist organizations — including the Sierra Club, Earthjustice and the Sunrise Movement’s New Orleans chapter — wrote a Thursday letter to Biden, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Maritime Administration Administrator Adm. Ann Phillips urging the administration to halt approvals of proposed deepwater crude oil export facilities. The letter signals that the environmental lobby is turning its attention to a new target after the White House opted to pause new LNG export hub approvals in January following a considerable activist campaign. (RELATED: The Entire Push To Halt New Natural Gas Exports Traces Back To One Ivy League Prof And His Shaky Study)

“The undersigned urge the White House and Department of Transportation (DOT) to halt and reevaluate its licensing review of proposed deepwater crude oil export facilities to update and ensure the validity of the agency’s “national interest” determinations and related Deepwater Port Act (DWPA) project review,” the activist groups wrote. “The licensing of massive deepwater crude oil exports leads to disastrous climate-disrupting pollution and environmental injustices and would lock in decades of fossil fuel dependence that undercut the pathway to a clean energy economy.”

Oil Export Terminals Letter by Nick Pope on Scribd

“At minimum, we ask the Administration to update its outdated analysis under the DWPA and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to address the harms generated by expansive oil exports on the climate, as well as consequences for environmental justice communities along the Gulf Coast, and for the national interest in energy sufficiency,” they continued.

American oil exports are “key” to global supply, especially in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting changes in global energy markets, according to Bloomberg News. The U.S. became a net oil exporter in 2020 for the first time since 1949, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and global oil demand is expected to grow through at least 2028, according to the International Energy Agency.

“It’s hard to call yourself a Climate President when more fossil fuels are being produced and exported by the U.S. than ever before,” James Hiatt, founder of For a Better Bayou, one of the letter’s signatories, said in a statement. “Approving massive oil export terminals in the Gulf of Mexico not only exacerbates our deadly fossil fuel addiction, but also blatantly disregards the health and wellbeing of environmental justice communities in the region. This administration is acting less like a beacon of hope and more like an enabler of dirty energy. It is time for a course correction towards real climate action.”

Biden handed environmental activists a huge victory when he paused approvals for new LNG export terminals in January, instructing his administration to closely examine the climate impacts of proposed facilities alongside economic and security considerations. The LNG pause stands as one of Biden’s biggest decisions on climate through his first term, and activists applauded the move while elected Republicans and the oil and gas industry have strongly opposed it.

Well-funded environmental organizations and young voters figure to be key bastions of support for Biden in the 2024 election cycle as he attempts to secure a second term in office and prevent the return of former President Donald Trump. While the Biden administration has spent more than $1 trillion and pushed stringent regulations to advance its sweeping climate agenda, most voters remain most concerned about the economy, inflation and immigration, with a much smaller share identifying climate change as the top issue facing the country, according to recent polling data.

Neither the White House nor the DOT responded immediately to requests for comment.

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