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Massachusetts Lawmakers Approve Bill to Form New LNG Commission

Faced with four active proposals for new liquefied natural gas import (LNG) terminals, the Massachusetts Legislature last week approved a bill that would lead to the formation of a new commission to study LNG siting and usage in the state. The legislation, which now goes to Gov. Mitt Romney, would require that the new commission complete an LNG investigation and submit its findings to the legislature before June 30.

According to the bill, the investigation will include an analysis of the growth of gas demand for power generation and heating in the state and the impact on public safety, security and the environment of siting new LNG terminals onshore and offshore.

"We're hoping that the commission will do what the federal government has not done: perform a regional analysis," said Eric Poulin, a spokesman for Edward Lambert, mayor of Fall River, MA, which would be the location of the Weaver's Cove LNG import terminal. "The reason we think a regional analysis is important is that if it's done right I think the public can be led to understand what the need is. The commission will look at supply and demand and will come up with a suggestion on how many terminals are needed. I think the public is looking for a concrete answer," he said echoing the recent remarks of several New England congressmen.

Two weeks ago 13 New England congressional lawmakers 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," the congressmen told Bodman in a letter. "We believe that this ad hoc approach is unsuitable for New England and that a more comprehensive and regional approach is required."

"We're also hoping that [the new commission] develops some kind of ranking system," Poulin said. "Not even taking into account the LNG projects in Maine, Canada and other places in New England and the Northeast, just in Massachusetts there are four active proposals on the board... We would like to see some kind of ranking of those projects from most desirable to least desirable for the public to look at."

The four proposed LNG facilities -- in addition to the existing Everett, MA, terminal, which is owned and operated by Suez Energy -- include two deepwater ports proposed offshore Boston by Suez and Excelerate Energy. Weaver's Cove LNG, a partnership of Amerada Hess and Poten & Partners, is planning the onshore terminal in Fall River that already has received final authorization from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Weaver's Cove is still awaiting approvals from the Army Corps of Engineers and from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. AES Corp. also has proposed an LNG terminal that would be sited on Outer Brewster Island in Boston Harbor.

The proposed Massachusetts LNG commission would be tasked with making recommendations to the legislature about what restrictions, if any, should be implemented by the Federal Aviation Administration for any proposal within close proximity to Logan Airport in Boston, and about the appropriateness of siting LNG import facilities in close proximity to areas with high population density.

The commission would be made up of members of the state Legislature, the attorney general's office, the commissioner of the Division of Energy Resources, the chair of the Energy Facilities Siting Board, the secretary of the Executive Office of Public Safety and the secretary of the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs.

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