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Maryland Senators Back Measure to Repeal FERC LNG Siting Authority

Maryland Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Benjamin L. Cardin, both outspoken critics of AES Corp.'s Sparrows Point liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal proposed for Baltimore County, MD, last Tuesday said they supported legislation to repeal a provision in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that gives FERC exclusive authority over the siting of onshore LNG terminals.

"I have always opposed a new LNG facility in Sparrows Point, but today there is even more evidence that a new site is unsafe and unwise. Yet federal agencies are all too quick to rubber-stamp these facilities," said Mikulski, a Democrat (see NGI, March 10). "We need to put the decision-making back in the hands of the state and local governments who have a better understanding of the resources available to adequately protect potential LNG tankers and new facilities."

"State and local authorities and the public should be part of the decision-making process on where these plants are located. The decision should not rest solely with federal agencies," agreed Cardin, also a Democrat.

The bill (S. 2822) seeking to repeal the Federal Energy Regualtory Commission's (FERC) siting authority over LNG facilities was offered earlier this month by presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR). The lawmakers are opposed to Broadwater Energy LLC's proposed floating terminal to be located in Long Island Sound, and three LNG projects being planned in Oregon and Washington (see NGI, April 14).

The measure is similar to legislation (S. 1174) introduced by Mikulski and Cardin last April to give state and local governments the right to veto the location of LNG terminal projects (see NGI, April 30, 2007). The Mikulski-Cardin bill is pending in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, they said.

The senators tried to attach their bill as an amendment to other bills last year, but their efforts either were defeated or they withdrew their amendment. In May 2007 Cardin and Mikulski sought to include their amendment in a $13 billion authorization bill for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but they later withdrew it, fearing that it might jeopardize the broader bill.

The two senators suffered a similar defeat in June 2007 when the Senate voted down a floor amendment to the Clean Energy Act (HR 6) that would have given states veto power over LNG terminals sited within their borders or within 15 miles of their borders. The Maryland lawmakers said the amendment would order the Army Corps of Engineers to work with the states before issuing permits for tanker access to LNG sites.

The Sparrows Point project, if constructed, would have about 1.5 Bcf/d of regasification capacity with a potential for expansion to 2.25 Bcf/d. Regasified LNG would be delivered to regional markets via the Mid-Atlantic Express pipeline, an 87-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline that would extend from the terminal to connections with interstate pipelines at Eagle, PA.

The project, including three LNG storage tanks, would be located on 80 acres within the existing Sparrows Point Industrial Complex in Baltimore County. The site was previously owned by Bethlehem Steel and housed a steel manufacturing and shipbuilding facility.

The proposed Sparrows Point terminal has faced several defeats in the courts and is now waiting for the Commerce Department to rule on its appeal to override Maryland's objection to the federal consistency certification for the company's project in Baltimore (see NGI, Sept. 17, 2007).

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