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Senate GOP Energy Bill Would Remove Barrier to Weaver's Cove Project

As other Republican energy proposals were falling by the wayside, Sen. Craig Thomas (R-WY) last Thursday introduced legislation that offers incentives to expand energy supply and infrastructure in an attempt to lower fuel prices. A key provision in the bill would remove a barrier to the construction of the proposed Weaver's Cove liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in Fall River, MA.

Thomas worked with Republican Sens. Larry Craig of Idaho, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, James Inhofe of Oklahoma and Trent Lott of Mississippi to write the "Energy Price Act of 2006," which includes provisions to improve production, refining, pipeline and electric transmission infrastructure, and energy conservation and efficiency.

The bill seeks to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to exploration and production; treats certain pipelines as five-year property for the purposes of accelerated depreciation; provides a permanent extension of the treatment of natural gas distribution lines as 15-year property; allows the use of tax-exempt bonds to finance electric transmission and pipeline infrastructure; repeals a provision in a transportation bill enacted last year that erected a major roadblock to the construction of an LNG import terminal in Fall River; and proposes initiatives to increase the Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency standards through 2016 and reduce oil and gas industry methane emissions.

The transportation bill preserves the Brightman Street Bridge in Massachusetts, which makes it impossible for traditional-sized LNG tankers to navigate the Taunton River and reach the proposed Weaver's Cove site in Fall River. Weaver's Cove sponsors, Amerada Hess and Poten & Partners, have proposed using smaller tankers to get around the obstacle.

The Thomas bill comes as energy legislation offered in late April by the Senate Republican leadership faced still criticism on Capitol Hill and around the nation. Key parts of the legislation, offering $100 rebates to offset rising gasoline prices, and a proposal that would bar businesses from using last in, first out accounting for inventory, were quickly withdrawn following loud protests by companies. The Republican leadership is now regrouping to figure out its energy strategy.

"This plan lays out commonsense energy provisions to increase supply and better our infrastructure to lower fuel prices," Thomas said. The bill "builds upon the best ideas my colleagues and I set out in the Energy Policy Act of 2005," which was enacted into law last summer. "Nobody is going to change fuel prices overnight," but this legislative package gets the ball rolling, he noted.

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