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    News

    Senator Boxer to FERC re Proposed LB LNG Facility: Make FERC-Restricted Safety-Related Info Publicly Available, Lift "Non-Disclosure" Req't


    (December 23, 2005) -- In a letter to the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D., CA) has urged the agency to lift its "non-disclosure" requirement on certain safety-related information regarding an 80+ million gallon Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facility proposed in the Port of LB and to make the information publicly available.

    As first reported by LBReport.com, FERC labelled certain safety related information "Critical Energy Infrastructure Information" (CEII), blocking CA Energy Commission staff, the general public, media outlets -- and presumbly LB decisionmakers -- from seeing it during the comment period on the proposed facility's draft Environmental Impact unless parties signed a non-disclosure agreement (self-gag order).

    FERC's action -- which the Port of LB chose to follow in similarly blocking access -- effectively prevented government agencies and the public from seeing the safety-related information unless they agreed in advance not to say what they saw, basically neutralizing it in the Environmental Review process.

    Senator Boxer's Dec. 14 letter to FERC chair Joseph Kelliher says the "citizens of California are relying on the California Energy Commission (CEC) to disseminate information on the safety of the project. If the CEC cannot share the information from the report with the Governor and other state agencies, residents of Long Beach and the surrounding area cannot be assured that decisions on the project will be in their best interest."

    LBReport.com posts the full text of Senator Boxer's letter below.

    The Senator's letter was filed in the federal proceeding in which a Mitsubishi-Conoco related firm is seeking a FERC permit to operate the facility in the Port of LB, roughly two miles from downtown LB. LB's City Attorney says the Port of LB (governed by Mayor-appointed, Council-approved Harbor Commissioners) will ultimately decide whether to allow the LNG facility on Port property.

    As first reported by LBReport.com in early December, the CA Energy Commission (designated by CA Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to comment on the LB LNG proposal) indicated in its Environmental Review comments that FERC and the Port of LB had blocked CA Energy Commission staff from viewing the safety-related information unless they submitted to the FERC gag order...which CA Energy Commission staff refused to do.

    The story was reported and advanced the next day by the Los Angeles Times...and Sen. Boxer cited the Times report in her correspondence.

    In filed Environmental Review comments, the CA Energy Commission, the CA Coastal Commission and the CA Public Utilities Commission criticized the Port's Environmental Review documents on multiple grounds, including understating risk...and the CA Public Utilities Commission flatly opposed locating the LNG facility in the Port of LB. [A Press-Telegram editorial accused the state agencies of "piling on" against the Port's draft EIR, and without reporting the FERC/Port action of safety-related information, assured its readers that the Environmental Review process was proceeding as it should.]

    The City of LB (city management/staff) also filed official comments saying the FERC/PoLB Environmental Review documents didn't meet respective requirements of federal and state law.

    LBReport.com posts the full text of Senator Boxer's letter below.

    [begin Sen. Boxer letter text]

    Dear Mr. Kelliher:

    As you know, the draft environmental impact report on the proposed Long Beach liquefied natural gas terminal includes a section on public safety. However, the Los Angeles Times recently reported [following a story by LBReport.com] that anyone who wishes to view that section of the report must sign a non-disclosure agreement, preventing them from sharing the information in it.

    This is troubling, and I urge you to make the information in the report public.

    The citizens of California are relying on the California Energy Commission (CEC) to disseminate information on the safety of the project. If the CEC cannot share the information from the report with the Governor and other state agencies, residents of Long Beach and the surrounding area cannot be assured that decisions on the project will be in their best interest. California policymakers and citizens need access to all information available regarding safety risks. It is impractical to require that each individual sign a non-disclosure form to gain this access.

    I understand that some of the safety information may have security implications. But, beyond that, I ask you to make the information publicly available as soon as possible. Californians have a right to full awareness of the safety hazards they face if the project moves forward.

    Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to your response.

    Responding to Senator Boxer's letter, LB writer and LNG project opponent Bry Myown, a member of LB Citizens for Utility Reform which is an intervenor in the FERC proceeding, told LBReport.com:

    It's a travesty that FERC won't permit the Governor to see "safety information" but will permit anyone intent on doing harm to see LNG terminal and tanker targets from land, sea or air.

    The FERC document provides no safety analysis: it rehashes industry history and PR, says its staff doesn't agree with analyzing worst-case events and concludes that the penny-ante incidents addressed by federal regulatory standards aren't big enough to hurt people. But because California law requires analyzing worst-case scenarios, the Port's study makes unsubstantiated claims about their allegedly low consequences and hides the methodology they used to get there.

    Censoring the report doesn't serve a public safety interest--it risks building a public safety hazard. Neither agency wants their underlying data released because they know it can't withstand scientific scrutiny.


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