The French government asked power group Engie to hold off on signing a multibillion-dollar US liquefied natural gas (LNG) import contract on concerns over the deal’s environmental implications.

The intervention comes amid growing scrutiny over the effects of shale gas extraction methods such as fracking and their impact on climate change through methane emissions, especially among US producers.

However, it also comes against a backdrop of broader trade disputes between Europe and the United States, with Paris and Washington engaging in retaliatory measures over plans to tax big digital companies, for instance.

Engie’s contract would be with NextDecade Corp, which is due to decide whether to go ahead with plans to build its proposed Rio Grande LNG export plant in Texas as it tots up agreements with prospective customers.

Jessica Szymanski, a spokeswoman at the US Department of Energy, which has touted LNG exports, said it would be “short-sighted and narrow-minded to delay LNG projects for political posturing.” Such a move “threatens to hinder the environmental progress we’ve made using American natural gas.”

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27th October 2020