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Stock photo shows an oil tanker at a terminal

The Sea Port Oil Terminal has a proposed capacity of 2 million barrels per day, Stock Photo: tcly / Shutterstock

Biden Urged to Halt Oil Exports After Terminal Approved

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 2261
May 10, 2024

By Ari Natter (Bloomberg) —

Climate activists who successfully pushed President Joe Biden to halt new US liquefied natural gas exports are setting their sights on proposed crude oil shipping facilities, after the administration approved a massive petroleum terminal last month. 

The administration should stop approvals of deepwater oil export facilities and reevaluate its approval process, the Sierra Club wrote on behalf of nearly 20 environmental and community groups in a letter Thursday to the White House and the Department of Transportation. 

The department in April quietly approved a deepwater port off the coast of Texas proposed by Enterprise Products Partners with the capacity to export 2 million barrels of oil a day. Three other oil export projects — proposed by companies including Energy Transfer, Phillips 66, Trafigura Ltd., and Sentinel Midstream LLC — are under review by the Transportation Department. 

“Up to this point, DOT has failed to meaningfully evaluate the wide-ranging harms of licensing massive deepwater crude export facilities in the Gulf of Mexico and the significant upstream production and global consumption the projects would induce,” said Devorah Ancel, a senior attorney with the Sierra Club, in a release. “Just like with liquefied gas exports, these projects pose serious threats to the climate, vulnerable communities and ecosystems, public health, and national security.” 

In response, the Transportation Department said extensive environmental reviews are already required to obtain a license for a deepwater port. The Enterprise Products project was approved after reviews concluded it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with conventional crude oil loading and ship-to-ship transfers while making oil transport safer, according to the department. 

“Under President Biden, the United States is leading the most ambitious climate and environmental agenda in history, including securing the largest-ever climate investment,” Transportation Department spokesman Sean Manning said. “DOT has and will continue to take action that accelerates America’s transition to a clean energy future, benefitting communities, workers, and our economy.”

Approval of the Enterprise project, known as the Sea Port Oil Terminal, comes amid a record oil export boom in the US. The terminal would be only the fourth in the US to load supertankers, the ships that make long-haul voyages to clients in Asia more economical. It would also result in greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 90 new coal-fired plants over its 30-year license, according to the Sierra Club.

Activists who celebrated the White House’s decision in late January to halt liquefied natural gas export permits while it reevaluates their effects on climate change say oil export facilities will lock in decades of carbon emissions while adding to the environmental injustices the Biden administration has pledged to fight. 

“It was just shocking to see him make this decision,” said Cassidy DiPaola, a spokeswoman for Fossil Free Media, a non-profit advocacy group. “It was really a major betrayal to front-line communities.” 

Biden has come under increasing pressure to limit crude and natural gas exports prior to the November election, and his January pause on LNG export permits was considered as a way to appease young, climate-minded voters who felt alienated by his administration’s approval of the $8 billion Willow oil development in Alaska last year. But he also faces pressure from voters to keep gasoline prices low. Exporting more US crude into the international petroleum market can help do that, by lowering crude prices. 

“It’s true that under-30 voters can make the difference at the margin in close swing states, but if gasoline prices keep rising, those swing states won’t be close,” said Kevin Book, managing director of consulting firm ClearView Energy Partners. “From a political perspective, the White House wants to win over young voters, but the White House needs to look like they are taking action on high gasoline prices.”

© 2024 Bloomberg L.P.

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