Bill McKibben writes about the pause on new Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) export facilities and how this November's presidential election will affect any future decisions on the matter.

Stop LNG Graphic

Any time something really big happens in Washington, there are all kinds of reverberations–and so it is with the Biden administration’s pause in permitting new LNG export facilities, which all of you did so much to make happen.

The first thing was the outraged shrieks from Big Oil, and their squads of politicians. This industry is not used to losing big public fights very often, and their trade associations and so on scurried off to Congress, where obedient Congresspeople held hearings, introduced legislation, and so on; they’re terrified because for the first time there’s a de facto ‘climate test’ for new projects. As Biden himself said, “This pause on new LNG approvals sees the climate crisis for what it is – the existential threat of our time.” Those are fighting words for the hydrocarbon barons, and so a resolution condemning the pause passed the GOP-controlled House, but only by 9 votes, which was viewed by the environmental lobbyists in DC as a good showing. So far nothing similar in the Senate (though a shout-out to those Third Actors who showed up to protest a hearing led by Joe Manchin).

There’s lots of legal skirmishing and political dealing underway, but as of now the best guess is that it will take the administration ten to fourteen months to come up with new criteria for deciding if and when to grant permits. Lots of groups, from the Sierra Club to Public Citizen, are using the time to commission studies and marshall arguments; as the process accelerates there will be ample opportunity for us to make our voices heard again.

But of course all of this will be instantly upended if Biden loses the presidential election–Donald Trump (and for that matter Nikki Haley) have both promised to end the pause and resume permitting any project anyone proposes. As our “super excited and ecstatic” (and truly wonderful) Gulf colleague Roishetta Ozana explained on the morning of Biden’s decision, “we know that if this administration is not re-elected, then everything he’s done on climate is going out the window.”

We’ll do our best to monitor the ups and downs in this battle over the next months, but it’s pretty clear that the most important thing we can do to preserve this win is make sure that Biden has the wholehearted backing of the climate community heading into November.

Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben is a founder of Third Act, which organizes people over the age of 60 to work on climate, democracy, and racial justice. He founded the first global grassroots climate campaign,, and serves as the Schumann Distinguished Professor in Residence at Middlebury College in Vermont. In 2014 he was awarded the Right Livelihood Prize, sometimes called the ‘alternative Nobel,’ in the Swedish Parliament. He’s also won the Gandhi Peace Award, and honorary degrees from 19 colleges and universities. He has written over a dozen books about the environment, including his first, The End of Nature, published in 1989. His most recently released book is The Flag, the Cross, and the Station Wagon: A Graying American Looks Back at his Suburban Boyhood and Wonders What the Hell Happened.