Action Alert! Stop Congress From Undermining Local Control Over LNG
Contact Your Member of Congress and Urge Them to Strike the Provision from H.R. 4818
On November 19, Congress passed H.R. 4818, the massive, multi-agency appropriations bill allocating billions of dollars for basic federal program funding and extra "pork" projects to many powerful members of Congress. Buried on page H10560 in the conference language for the bill (http://thomas.loc.gov/home/omni2005/index.htm) is a provision - inserted without a vote - that may undermine states' ability to adequately regulate the permitting and siting of proposed Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facilities.
The language seeks to influence California's pending lawsuit against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) - legal action that has implications for other states dealing with proposed LNG marine facilities. The July lawsuit filed by the California Public Utility Commission claims that FERC illegally ruled in March that states have limited jurisdiction over the permitting and siting of LNG facilities inside their borders. The lawsuit is being closely watched by other states, where officials have expressed alarm about the inability of state and local governments to have adequate input into these projects. Without adequate local control over this process, these LNG facilities may be forced upon America's coastal communities. The projects are particularly controversial because LNG is extremely volatile and dangerous, necessitating adequate community input.
But it's not too late to stop this underhanded attempt to muzzle citizens. The legislation has been held on being sent to President Bush until next week (probably December 6 or 7), when Congress will vote on language to strike another controversial amendment also buried in H.R. 4818.
So now is an opportunity to demand that Congress approve a second, special amendment to strike this LNG language. Contact your member of Congress and urge them to strike this LNG language from H.R. 4818.
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The new language is troubling because companies are proposing to build at least 25 new LNG marine terminal facilities, affecting at least 14 states (Alabama, California, Delaware, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas) in the next few years. Currently there are just four LNG marine terminals in the United States.
Communities are leery of LNG facilities because of security and environmental reasons. LNG tankers and marine terminals make significant terrorist targets because of the enormous quantities of fuel carried by the tankers (up to 10 times the amount of fuel of a typical crude oil ship), the risk of fires and the hazards associated with the heating of the LNG at the marine terminals. States officials have raised serious questions about the adequacy of FERC’s security assessments.
This concern is particularly important given assertions by the United States’ former deputy counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke that Al Qaeda operatives came to the United States by sneaking aboard Algerian LNG tankers. With the boat bombings of the U.S.S. Cole in 2000 and the oil tanker Limburg in 2002, Al Qaeda has demonstrated the capacity to strike at sea. FERC’s safety regulations are inadequate, in part because they deal only with LNG terminals, not tankers.
Increasing U.S. reliance on liquefied natural gas also increases our dependence on the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). We obtain most of our natural gas from domestic production, with a small percentage coming from LNG imports. A quarter of those imports are from OPEC nations (Algeria, Qatar and Nigeria). Boosting U.S. reliance on LNG – as called for in the appropriations bill and envisioned by the companies that want to build new terminals – will result in the United States becoming more dependent on OPEC.
Further, LNG is not environmentally sustainable. Natural gas used as fuel for electricity pollutes, and the exploration and drilling for natural gas can cause environmental damage.
The offending language in H.R. 4818 now states,
"On March 24, 2004, FERC issued a declaratory order asserting exclusive jurisdiction over the approval and siting of liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals. FERC concluded that LNG terminals are engaged in foreign commerce and, as such, fall clearly within the authority granted to the FERC under Section 3 of the Natural Gas Act of 1938. The conferees agree on this point and disagree with the position of at least one State government agency that it should be the authority responsible for LNG terminal siting within its boundaries, rather than the FERC."
"The Natural Gas Act clearly preempts States on matters of approving and siting natural gas infrastructure associated with interstate and foreign commerce. These facilities need one clear process for review, approval, and siting decisions. Because LNG terminals affect both interstate and foreign commerce, LNG facility development requires a process that also looks at the national public interest, and not just the interests of one State."
"The conferees recognize that, as a matter of energy supply, the nation will need to expand its LNG infrastructure over the decades to come to satisfy natural gas demand. Any dispute of LNG siting jurisdictional authority now will be counterproductive to meeting our natural gas needs in the future."