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New England Lawmakers Again Press for Regional Approach to LNG Siting

New England congressional lawmakers once again are calling for federal regulators to take a more comprehensive, regional approach to the siting of liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal facilities in the region.

At the same time, Massachusetts' officials last week asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to stay an order approving the construction of the controversial Weaver's Cove Energy LNG terminal in Fall River, MA, until the agency has time to undertake a new Section 3 review of the "fundamentally revised" proposal by the company. The revised plan calls for deliveries of LNG to be made in smaller tankers (and more frequently) in order to clear the Brightman Street Bridge in Fall River.

Thirteen senators and representatives from Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Maine, mostly Democrats, have requested a meeting with Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman to discuss alternatives to federal regulators' current project-by-project review of LNG receiving facilities proposed for the New England region and elsewhere.

"The current permitting process evaluates...new LNG import facilities as they are proposed and treats each LNG facility in isolation, rather than in [conjunction] with other proposed facilities. We believe that this ad hoc approach is unsuitable for New England and that a more comprehensive and regional approach is required," the lawmakers wrote in their letter to Bodman last Thursday.

"We strongly support the construction of additional LNG facilities in New England, but we believe that a new strategy needs to be implemented that will weigh important project factors and improve interagency coordination on LNG siting." The lawmakers accused the FERC of not sufficiently coordinating with other federal agencies on LNG projects.

Many of the same lawmakers called on FERC in October 2004 to review LNG terminal projects based on a regional approach, but the agency rejected the proposed strategy on the grounds that it would be time-consuming and would undermine its regulatory responsiveness.

Making the latest request were Democratic Sens. Edward Kennedy and John Kerry of Massachusetts, and Democratic Congressmen Barney Frank, Edward Markey, William Delahunt, James McGovern and Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts.

Also signing off on the letter were Connecticut Congressman Christopher Shays and Robert Simmons, Rhode Island Congressmen Patrick Kennedy and James Langevin, and Maine Congressmen Tom Allen and Michael Michaud.

In a related development, the Massachusetts legislature said it plans to establish a special commission this year to conduct an investigation and study of the siting and use of LNG facilities in the state. The panel said it will make recommendations about what restrictions, if any, should be implemented by the Federal Aviation Administration for an LNG project within close proximity to Boston's Logan Airport, and about the appropriateness of siting LNG import facilities near high-population areas. The commission is expected to report the results of its investigation and study on or before June 30.

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