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A shrimp boat passes in front of a storage tank of the Calcasieu Pass liquid natural gas facility in Cameron, La., Dec. 13, 2023.BRANDON THIBODEAUX/The New York Times News Service

U.S. Deputy Energy Secretary David Turk is defending the Biden administration’s decision to pause approvals for new permits for exporting liquefied natural gas, saying LNG shipments would still double within six years.

During a Senate hearing on Thursday, Mr. Turk said U.S. LNG exports could reach 26 billion cubic feet a day by 2030, or the equivalent of 198 million tonnes a year.

“It’s incredibly important not only to focus on the climate impact over the next few years of additional exports of our gas. We need to focus on where we want to be 10 years, 15 years, 20 years from now,” he told the Senate committee on energy and natural resources.

Democratic senators have raised concerns about the full life cycle of LNG, including greenhouse-gas emissions stemming from methane leaks in the production of natural gas through fracking.

Mr. Turk said President Joe Biden’s LNG pause is necessary to allow the Energy Department to examine issues such as potent methane emissions.

“I’m incredibly proud to be part of an administration where we have a net-zero goal by 2050,” Mr. Turk said.

During the Senate hearing, Republicans clashed with Democrats over everything from energy security to the social-media app TikTok.

“This administration has caved to the woke green agenda to appease activists at the expense of working families,” said Steve Daines, a Republican senator from Montana.

Environmental groups, in praising the Democratic President’s LNG restrictions, have reiterated their support for activists such as Alex Haraus, a 25-year-old TikTok influencer who opposes LNG exports. Republicans say Mr. Haraus and other activists unduly swayed the Biden administration.

Lisa Murkowski, a Republican senator from Alaska, said allies rely on U.S. LNG for security of supply. “Blame it on TikTok or blame it on whatever, but we’re in a place that just doesn’t seem to make sense,” she said as she advocated for reversing the LNG pause. “It doesn’t make sense from a trade perspective or an economic perspective.”

Alex Padilla, a Democratic senator from California, countered that Mr. Biden and the Energy Department are conducting themselves based on science and facts.

“I got to say how embarrassing and insulting it is to suggest that this is an administration that is making decisions based on TikTok influencers,” Mr. Padilla said.

Joe Manchin, a moderate Democratic senator from West Virginia, serves as the committee’s chair. He broke ranks and sided with Republicans in expressing concerns about delays to approvals for new LNG projects.

Mr. Biden’s LNG pause “sends a horrible signal” that places the U.S. in “the wrong direction for our country,” Mr. Manchin said.

Seven U.S. LNG export terminals are operating and another five U.S. facilities are likely to open by 2028. The U.S. is the world’s largest LNG exporter, shipping more than 90 million tonnes last year to Europe, Asia and other destinations.

In sharp contrast, LNG Canada in Kitimat, B.C., will become the first terminal in Canada dedicated to exporting the commodity on purpose-built LNG vessels. LNG Canada is slated to start exporting to Asia by 2025, and once it is at full capacity, it would ship 14 million tonnes a year of natural gas in liquid form.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith visited Washington on Wednesday and Thursday, leading a delegation to promote the province’s energy sector.

“LNG Canada will be making a final investment decision very soon on the second phase of their project,” Ms. Smith said during a news conference. “And we have such an advantage in Canada because a cold environment makes it a little bit easier with less energy to liquefy, as well as a shorter distance to transport to Asia. So I hope we don’t blow it.”

Teresa Waddington, vice-president of corporate relations at LNG Canada, said the joint venture’s five co-owners are continuing to evaluate the timeline and scope for the proposed expansion, including benefits for First Nations. “A Phase 2 final investment decision will take into account several factors which include overall competitiveness, affordability, pace, future GHG emissions and stakeholder needs,” she said in an e-mail on Thursday.

Four other B.C. projects are active in seeking to ship LNG in tankers to markets in Asia: Woodfibre LNG near Squamish; Cedar LNG in Kitimat; Ksi Lisims LNG on Pearse Island; and FortisBC’s expansion plans at its domestic Tilbury LNG site in Delta.

“I hope if the Americans are going to take a pause, that we use this as an opportunity to accelerate some of those projects,” Ms. Smith said.

With a report from Adrian Morrow in Washington

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