April 07, 2008

Wyden, Clinton, Lieberman, Dodd Seek Repeal of Federal Control Over LNG Terminal Siting

Senators Seek to Restore State Control Over Terminal Placement

WASHINGTON, DC - Working to restore local control over liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal placement, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), and Chris Dodd (D-CT) introduced legislation today to repeal portions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which gave that authority to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Such decisions had historically been decided by state siting agencies.

"The end result of the Bush-Cheney energy bill is a Federal process, dominated by corporate energy interests, in which Oregonians have no due process and no assurance that their concerns will be heard, much less addressed," said Wyden.

"The 2005 energy bill trampled on states' rights when it comes to LNG terminal siting decisions, and it's time for Congress to set things right," said Clinton.

"The 2005 energy bill included good provisions, but the one strengthening FERC's hand in siting LNG terminals was a bad apple," Lieberman said. "The way FERC has played that hand in the case of the Broadwater terminal proposed for Long Island Sound highlights the need for this repeal."

"Events in my home state have clearly demonstrated that giving FERC the authority to review and approve new locations for LNG facilities was ill-advised," said Dodd. "FERC recently approved a massive new floating LNG terminal in Long Island Sound known as Broadwater, ignoring both the valid safety and ecological concerns as well as the protests of countless concerned citizens from both New York and Connecticut. In 2005 I worked against giving FERC this authority and remain committed to returning this authority to the states."

Currently, three separate proposals to site LNG terminals in Oregon are pending before FERC, despite public opposition and a lack of demonstrated need for increased supplies of liquid natural gas in the state. FERC insists that it is not required to determine that the projects are actually needed in order to allow them to be built. In addition, FERC refuses to determine which of these projects that include building hundreds of miles of pipelines through forest lands, farms, vineyards and residential neighborhoods to connect them to the interstate pipeline system has the least environmental impact.

Recently, Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski wrote to Oregon's congressional delegation requesting federal action to restore state control over LNG terminal siting decisions.

Portions of Wyden's statement introducing the bill appear below:

"Right now, in Oregon, we have three separate LNG proposals pending before FERC. Together, they would have a combined capacity of 3.3 billion cubic feet (BCF) of gas per day. Oregon and Washington, together, only use 1.33 BCF per day. Yet, FERC categorically refuses to address the basic question of whether the three proposed facilities are even needed to serve our market. FERC also refuses to consider whether any of the three publicly announced interstate pipeline proposals to bring natural gas to Oregon from the Rocky Mountains would be a better option. In fact, FERC asserts that it's not its job to determine which, if any, of these proposals best serves our market. FERC also asserts that it has no obligation to determine which of these proposals -- and the hundreds of miles of pipelines that would cut through forest lands, farms, vineyards, and residential neighborhoods to connect them to the interstate pipeline system -- has the least environmental impact to our State and our citizens' private property.

To make matters worse, FERC's insistence that each of these projects is a separate, unrelated project has produced a bureaucratic nightmare of competing public meetings, scoping hearings, and filing requirements for each project. Letters from local officials to FERC asking legitimate questions about impacts on local land use don't get answered. They simply get filed, because that's what the FERC process is set up to do - to process paper and not address real concerns.

The end result is a public process in which the public has no due process and no assurance that their concerns will be heard, much less addressed.

At every turn, FERC's LNG siting process in Oregon has defied common sense and public accountability. It is a process divorced from the real world questions that need to be answered. And, the situation in other parts of the country is no different.

It's time to restore the local and state role in these critical decisions about in whose backyard a pipeline or LNG plant will be built. It's time to reverse the ill-considered decision Congress made in 2005 when it overrode state and local decision-making to put a Federal bureaucracy in charge of LNG siting authority. This bill would do exactly that."