(April 7, 2005) -- City Attorney Bob Shannon has told LBReport.com that his office and other LB city offices are very concerned and closely monitoring developments regarding a federal Energy bill (reported April 6 by LBReport.com) which includes provisions eliminating the CA Public Utilities Commission's power to decide (and the LB City Council's ability to review environmental appeals on) an 80+ million gallon Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facility proposed by a private firm in the Port of LB.
"We are very concerned about the potential in this bill to take away state jurisdiction as well as affecting the right of the City Council to review appeals on the LNG EIR/EIS [Environmental Review documents]," City Attorney Shannon said. Although the bill doesn't include eminent domain provisions (in which FERC could take land for LNG plants), it would substantively affect rights under the CA Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), possibly leaving little if anything for appeal to and review by the City Council.
The Port of LB, via its Board of Harbor Commissioners, would still retain the legal right as landlord to say "no," City Attorney Shannon indicated.
City Attorney Shannon said multiple city offices are communicating about the federal legislation...and a joint meeting of the Council's State and Federal Legislation Committees may be convened to address the matter.
In separate developments with possible local impacts:
FERC chairman Pat Wood III, has announced he's leaving office at the end of his term June 30. President Bush's new appointee will require Senate confirmation...which may (or may not) focus attention on FERC's actions involving LNG nationally and in LB.
During chairman Wood's tenure, FERC asserted exclusive regulatory authority to approve the siting of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facilities and continues to fight efforts by the CA Public Utiltiies Commission to apply CA law to a proposal by a Mitsubishi subsidiary to build and operate an 80+ million gallon LNG facility in the Port of LB.
As previously reported by LBReport.com, a FERC representative told a U.S. Senate Energy Committee hearing that the agency wants clarified, exclusive powers to speed the LNG approval process that trump state regulatory and other local bodies in the LNG decisionmaking process.
The House version of the national Energy bill -- with provisions giving FERC such exclusive authority -- is slated for "markup" next week in the House Energy & Commerce Committee where committee members vote on amendments that may be offered. During opening statements on April 5, some Committee Democrats voiced opposition to the FERC LNG verbiage...and one Democrat has publicly vowed to bring an amendment to challenge it.
Republicans, who hold a controlling majority in the House, likewise hold a majority on the Committee...and a Republican Committee member responded to Democrat complaints:
"A company wanted to build a $450 million Liquefied Natural Gas terminal in Long Beach, California...This bill would make it clear that FERC is the lead agency for coordinating all federal authorizations and would require the agency to establish a permit that meets a schedule...[T]his bill will triumph and help to bring in that plant, that $450 million Liquefied Natural Gas import terminal to Long Beach would certainly help for California..."
At its April 7 meeting, the CA Public Utilities Commission voiced its opposition to the House Energy bill's FERC/LNG provisions (which would moot a suit brought by CPUC against FERC, disputing FERC's exclusive authority under current law).
CPUC voted to adopt the following position on the House Energy bill: Support concurrent CPUC jurisdiction but oppose any specific and exclusive jurisdiction with FERC. CPUC chairman Michael Peevey added extemporaneously, "I understand Senator [Dianne] Feinstein [D, CA] is putting in a bill to do this..."