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MA Lawmaker At Forefront of Effort to Blunt LNG Provision in Omnibus Spending Bill

MA Lawmaker At Forefront of Effort to Blunt LNG Provision in Omnibus Spending Bill

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) is at the forefront of an effort with other coastal state lawmakers to clarify that language contained in the omnibus spending bill conference report should not be used to bolster FERC's claim of exclusive jurisdiction over the siting of liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminals.

Language confirming that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has overriding authority over onshore LNG facilities was included in a conference report on the omnibus spending bill for fiscal year 2005 that Congress passed in late November (see NGI, Nov. 29).

Congress felt obligated to address the issue in the conference report after California regulators earlier this year challenged FERC's jurisdiction over Sound Energy Solutions' planned LNG terminal for the Port of Long Beach, CA. Frank and the group of lawmakers plan to file a "friend of the court" brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which is considering a petition filed by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

"The brief will argue that the non-binding language merely represents the opinion of the members of Congress who authored it, and that it should not be given any particular weight in the California case or other future cases," including the proposed Weaver's Cove LNG terminal in Fall River, MA, a press statement from Frank's office read.

"I believe it is very clear that this provision has no legal effect. On the other hand, it is always possible that an individual judge could decide that the provision should be taken into account in making a ruling on the California LNG site, with that ruling then being applied to other cases in the future," Frank said. "Therefore, it makes sense to make the point now, while the California case is still pending, that this provision is simply an opinion, as opposed to something that is legally binding."

This is "another example of the ill-advised results we get when omnibus spending bills are thrown together at the last minute," he said. "I think it's unlikely that this LNG provision would have stood the light of day if it had been proposed in a normal, open manner."

Charles Isom, whose boss Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) introduced a bill in May to end the "jurisdictional conflicts" over LNG jurisdiction, also agreed that the spending bill report's provision on LNG did not have the effect of law. But he added that Terry plans to reintroduce his legislation in the 109th Congress to make FERC the lead agency for carrying our environmental reviews and the permitting of LNG projects.

The language in the spending bill report "lays the foundation" for Terry's upcoming measure, Isom said.

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