(July 28, 2005) -- The House of Representatives has voted 275-156 to pass a final version (House-Senate conference version) of the federal Energy bill ("Energy Policy Act of 2005"), with provisions stripping state and local bodies of safety and siting decisionmaking on Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facilities.
LB-area Congressmembers Dana Rohrabacher (R., HB-LB-PV) (in whose district the Port of LB is), Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald (D., Carson-LB), Ed Royce (R. El Dorado-OC) and Linda Sanchez (D. Lakewood) did not speak but voted "no."
The full vote can be viewed by clicking here.
The federal Energy bill effectively stems from actions by the Port of LB, which entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with a Mitsubishi subsidiary for exclusive negotiating rights to a PoLB site without conducting site-specific safety studies, without consulting publicly with the City Council or seeking its approval..and has since facilitated the firm's application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) without requiring that the firm seek permission under CA law from CA's Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).
FERC used the PoLB site to assert that FERC has exclusive LNG authority nationwide under federal law...and said CPUC has no authority on siting and safety decisionmaking on LNG facilities. CPUC sued FERC in federal court to uphold CA law, but neither LB City Hall nor the Port of LB intervened to support CPUC's position...and to trump the litigation, FERC asked Congress for legislative language that would unambiguously establish FERC's LNG supremacy nationwide...which is the origin of the Energy bill's LNG language.
Lawyers for the Mitsubishi subsidiary seeking to build and operate the LNG plant in the Port of LB have said the legislation doesn't change current Port/Council Environmental Review authority...and regardless of the federal legislation, the firm says it intends to comply with the current Port-Council EIR process.
In June 2003, as first reported locally by LBReport.com, Mayor O'Neill wrote Sen. Feinstein, seeking her assistance in having federal authorities speed the LB LNG project to conclusion.
While the federal Energy legislation began taking shape in late 2004 and advanced through Congress in early 2005, Mayor O'Neill did not use her position in the U.S. Conference of Mayors (VP for past year, President now) to oppose the federal LNG preemptive language, even though the issue potentially affects Mayors in coastal communities across the country.
As first reported by LBReport.com, the chair of the Conference of Mayor's Energy Committee said Mayor O'Neill hadn't spoken to him about LNG concerns. As a result, the National Conference of Mayors' Energy committee advanced a series of policy resolutions that never mentioned the subject.
On April 19, 2005, acting at the urging of Councilman Frank Colonna, the LB City Council voted to urge LB officials to use all available avenues to oppose the locally preemptive LNG portions of the advancing federal Energy bill. However, Mayor O'Neill did not move to amend the Conference of Mayors' policy resolutions -- adopted in June as the U.S. Senate began consideration of the Energy bill -- to reflect LB's stated position.
Mayor O'Neill did, however, support policy resolutions that put the Conference of Mayors group on record in favor of a Gerald Desmond bridge upgrade (allowing larger ships to use the Port of LB) and I-710 capacity expansion sought by the Port and City of LB.
On April 21 -- the same day the House was scheduled to vote on the Energy bill -- Mayor O'Neill sent a letter to House members opposing federal LNG preemption.
Responding to fast breaking events before leaving on a previously scheduled legislative advocacy trip to Washington, D.C., Councilman Colonna convened a special meeting of the Federal Legislation and Environmental Affairs Committee (Colonna, chair; Kell, vice chair; Reyes Uranga member) on April 22 to receive a report from LBPD and LBFD on a visit to a Boston harbor area LNG site. LBPD and LBFD officials described local costs being incurred by Boston area officials and also discussed safety concerns locally. LBReport.com coverage, click here
On May 24, as previously reported by LBReport.com, Mayor O'Neill sent a letter to Senator Feinstein opposing federal preemption on LNG, which Senator Feinstein quoted in a press release previewing her proposed LNG amendment (which, as reported above, was ultimately tabled).
On June 7, by a 5-4 vote Councilmembers O'Donnell, Kell, Richardson, Uranga and Lerch blocked a motion supported by Councilmembers Lowenthal, Baker, Colonna, Gabelich to terminate a Memorandum of Understanding, a companion to a possible future Port agreement of the LNG project.