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Senators Seek to Repeal FERC Siting Authority over LNG Projects

Four senators whose states have been proposed as sites for controversial liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects introduced legislation last Monday to repeal a provision in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct) that gave FERC exclusive authority to site onshore LNG terminals.

"The 2005 energy bill trampled on states' rights when it comes to LNG terminal siting decisions, and it's time for Congress to set things right," said presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY).

"The 2005 energy bill included good provisions, but the one strengthening FERC's hand in siting LNG terminals was a bad apple," agreed Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, whose state opposes Broadwater Energy LLC's floating terminal slated for Long Island Sound. In March the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved the LNG project, imposing more than 80 environmental, security and safety conditions (see NGI, March 24). The project would be located approximately nine miles off the shore of Long Island, NY, and 10 miles from Connecticut.

In a related development, New York Gov. David Paterson last Thursday said he opposed the Broadwater LNG project, and issued an executive order to establish a planning board to find alternatives (see related story). Paterson joined Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell and other state officials, who have long fought to derail the project. Rell last week expressed strong support for the Senate bill repealing FERC's exclusive siting authority.

"Events in my home state have clearly demonstrated that giving FERC the authority to review and approve new locations for LNG facilities was ill-advised," said Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut. In approving Broadwater, FERC "[ignored] both the valid safety and ecological concerns as well as the protests of countless concerned citizens from both New York and Connecticut. In 2005 I worked against giving FERC this authority and remain committed to returning this authority to the states."

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) is another fierce opponent of FERC's handing of LNG projects. "Right now in Oregon we have three separate LNG proposals pending before FERC. Together they would have a combined capacity of 3.3 Bcf/d. Oregon and Washington together only use 1.33 Bcf/d. Yet FERC categorically refuses to address the basic question of whether the three proposed facilities are even needed to serve our market," he said.

The three Oregon projects are NorthernStar Natural Gas's Bradwood Landing LNG facility along the Columbia River, the Jordan Cove Energy facility at Coos Bay along the Pacific Coast and Vancouver, WA-based Oregon LNG's project along the southern Oregon coast.

"It's time to reverse the ill-considered decision Congress made in 2005 when it overrode state and local decision-making to put a federal bureaucracy in charge of LNG siting authority. This bill would do exactly that," Wyden said.

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