Washington (May 8, 2023) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) joined 39 colleagues, led by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Representatives Jared Huffman (CA-02), Raul Grijalva (AZ-07), and Nanette Barragán (CA-44), in a bicameral letter urging greater scrutiny on the entire supply chain of liquefied natural gas (LNG) – a fossil fuel – in National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) guidance on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate chaos impacts.

“Our ability to combat the worst impacts of the climate crisis depends, to a significant degree, on whether the United States approves proposed LNG pipeline and export terminal projects on top of the already-substantial LNG infrastructure,” wrote the lawmakers in a letter to Brenda Mallory, Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). “Existing LNG infrastructure already has a disproportionate impact on Black, Brown, Indigenous, and poor communities; this will only be exacerbated with the addition of the proposed projects. […] CEQ’s guidance should include examples and best practices for how agencies should conduct meaningful engagement to ensure that relevant agencies conduct proper and adequate analysis of the direct, indirect, and cumulative effects of LNG infrastructure. CEQ must also ensure that adverse impacts to environmental justice communities and cumulative impacts are determinative on permitting decisions for LNG infrastructure and facilities.”

The lawmakers’ letter notes that agencies are making fossil LNG permit decisions based on the previous administration’s public interest determination that fails to put methane emissions into relevant context. Given methane’s much higher global warming potential, LNG exports compared to coal-fired electricity has worse upstream methane emissions.

“Even without including upstream leaks, the continued buildout of LNG infrastructure is at odds with the Paris climate goals and U.S. climate commitments,” the lawmakers continue. “As CEQ said, it’s necessary to put ‘emissions in relevant context, including how they relate to climate action commitments and goals,’ and the proper context for LNG expansion is the rapidly dwindling carbon budget available to keep global temperature increases below 1.5 degrees Celsius, the United States’ fair share of that budget, and the other LNG projects in operation, under construction, or in planning.”

In their letter, the lawmakers urge CEQ to develop a specific review process for fossil LNG, starting by assembling a cross-agency team used specifically to carry out solid assessments of the impacts of any proposed LNG buildout. This assessment should examine both the climate and environmental justice impacts of the totality of the LNG process, from upstream emissions (including methane leaks) from fracking, to transport, liquefications, and downstream emissions from LNG combustion.

The lawmakers urge that CEQ’s role cannot end there, and are pushing the council to play an active role in ensuring that federal agencies in charge of governing LNG must take the full lifecycle—direct and indirect cumulative emissions—into account when making permitting decisions on LNG export facilities.

“FERC’s status as an independent agency cannot serve as an excuse for them to skirt their legal obligations under NEPA,” they write. “CEQ should also ensure that relevant agencies consider a reasonable project scope and carry out rigorous analyses of alternatives as part of the NEPA process. Simply assuming away the no-action alternative—as DOE did with the Alaska LNG Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement by saying limiting fossil fuel supply would not affect emissions—is not acceptable.  Agencies must be required to seek additional information on emissions and environmental impact, if that information is not provided by applicants.”

“As you move forward with final guidance, we urge you to recognize the unique impact that potential LNG buildout could have on our ability to combat the climate crisis and to protect U.S. communities, and to develop tools and policies specific to this risk,” the letter concludes.

In addition to Senators Markey and Merkley, this letter is signed by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

In addition to Representatives Huffman, Grijalva, and Barragan, the letter is signed by Representatives Barbara Lee (CA-12), Jesús “Chuy” Garcia (IL-04), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Zoe Lofgren (CA-18), Jennifer McClellan (VA-04), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Emanuel Cleaver (MO-05), Rashida Tlaib (MI-12), Mike Levin (CA-49), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Seth Magaziner (RI-02), Bonnie Wason Coleman (NJ-12), Grace Meng (NY-06), Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), James McGovern (MA-02), Julia Brownley (CA-26), André Carson (IN-07), Nydia Velázquez (NY-07), Yvette Clarke (NY-09), Frederica Wilson (FL-24), Summer Lee (PA-12), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Adam Schiff (CA-30), Shri Thanedar (MI-13), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-10), Chellie Pingree (ME-01), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Sean Casten (IL-06), Jerry Nadler (NY-12), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Dina Titus (NV-01), Dwight Evans (PA-03), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), and Bobby Scott (VA-03).

Full text of the letter can be found here.