The Liberty Justice Center and Pelican Institute Challenge Biden Administration’s LNG Export Ban

May 16, 2024

On May 16, the Liberty Justice Center and Pelican Institute for Public Policy jointly filed a lawsuit to challenge a ban imposed by the Biden Administration on the authorization of new and pending liquid natural gas (LNG) export applications.

Since 1938, a federal law titled the Natural Gas Act has regulated the approval of LNG exportation. This legislation presumes that LNG export applications are almost always in the public interest, and therefore requires the Secretary of the Department of Energy to approve the applications unless the Department makes specific findings showing that an individual application is not in the public’s interest.

Nothing in the Natural Gas Act authorizes the Department of Energy to halt all LNG export applications. For that reason, as recently as July of 2023, the Department of Energy denied a petition calling for a halt to the approval of all new LNG export licenses. In its rejection, the Department stated that it had “no factual or legal basis” for “halt[ing] approval of pending applications to export LNG.”

However, in January of 2024, President Biden and the Department of Energy reversed course and announced that they were halting the approval of all new and pending LNG export applications—effective immediately and indefinitely.

The Liberty Justice Center and Pelican Institute’s lawsuit challenges the ban, arguing that it contravenes the Natural Gas Act’s mandate, violates the separation of powers, exceeds the executive branch’s designated authority by attempting to create law, fails to follow proper rule-making procedure, is an abuse of discretion, and poses significant harm to the economy by interfering with a key industry.

The Liberty Justice Center and Pelican Institute’s lawsuit is not the only legal challenge to the ban. Across the country from Alaska to Florida, sixteen states have also jointly filed suit through their attorneys general.

“Nothing in the Natural Gas Act grants any federal officer, even the President, the authority to halt the approval process, and yet the Biden Administration has tried just that,” said Loren Seehase, Senior Counsel at the Liberty Justice Center. “The administration will continue to disregard the Constitution and federal law until a court upholds the rule of law—and our lawsuit aims to make sure the court will.”

“This export ban is unconstitutional and indefensible. In addition to the harm it will do to the economy and to tens of thousands of working Americans across the country, it also disregards federal law, flouts the standard rule-making procedure, and threatens our constitutional structure,” said James Baehr, Special Counsel at the Pelican Institute for Public Policy.

“Tens of thousands of hardworking oil and gas workers across the country depend on the LNG export industry to put food on the table for their families,” said plaintiff Matt Coday, President of the Oil & Gas Workers Association. “This ban will have devastating consequences on their lives and livelihoods unless the court steps in to put an end to the administration’s overreach.”

The legal organizations represent the Oil & Gas Workers Association, a nonprofit trade association that represents workers in the oil and gas industry, whose livelihoods are threatened by the LNG export ban. 47,000 members of the Association rely on the existence of an LNG export industry for their employment and will face significant harm if the ban is not overturned.

Oil & Gas Workers Association v. Biden was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana on May 16, 2024.

The legal filings in Oil & Gas Workers Association v. Biden are available here.

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