(May 27, 2005) -- A federal Energy bill that includes provisions stripping state and local bodies of signfiicant decisionmaking powers on safety and environmental review of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facilities in their communities roared toward the U.S. Senate floor, after Senator Dianne Feinstein (D., CA) declined to wage a battle in the Senate's Energy & Natural Resources Committee to retain state and local prerogatives.
The May 26 Committee vote to advance the legislation was 21-1. A press aide to Senator Feinstein told LBReport.com that Energy Committee chair, Sen. Pete Domenici (R., NM) invited Sen. Feinstein to try and work with Committee staff to devise mutually acceptable language on the LNG issue before the bill reaches the Senate floor (where it may otherwise prompt a visible squabble in the coming weeks). Meanwhile, the Energy bill advances as is.
In April, the House of Representatives passed a version of the Energy bill with similar federal LNG supremacy provisions...which President George W. Bush has indicated he supports.
CA Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger sent two letters opposing the federal LNG provisions, which will undermine current CA laws and are opposed by CA's Public Utilities Commission. Neither of the letters appears on the Governor's website. The first letter (obtained by LBReport.com from outside the Governor's office and published by us and the L.A. Times) recites the Governor's positions on a number of iissues in the federal Energy bill, including LNG. A second letter signed by Gov. Schwarzenegger and the Governors of NJ, MA, RI, DE and LA also opposes federal LNG supremacy.
On April 21, LB Mayor Beverly O'Neill sent a letter to the House Energy Committee opposing the provisions two weeks after the Committee voted on the Energy bill...on the same day that the full House of Representatives approved and passed the bill. On May 24, Mayor O'Neill sent the Senate Energy Committee a letter (previously posted by LBReport.com) urging continuation of local LNG decisionmaking authority.
Both the House and Senate versions of the bills would effectively remove from LB's Board of Harbor Commissioners and City Council, respectively, the ability to certify and review environmental impact documents regarding an 80+ million gallon LNG facility proposed in the Port of LB...and give that power to FERC. Neither the House nor Senate bill includes eminent domain provisions (letting FERC take property for LNG facilities) opposed by the Port of LB.
As previously reported by LBReport.com, the City of LB and the Port of LB both use the same Washington, D.C.-based firm to provide legislative advocacy services under separate contracts.
Since 2003, the Port has worked with the applicant in navigating through the FERC application process...while the applicant has not sought permission the CA Public Utilities Commission. In 2004, FERC said its LNG powers trump CPUC's..and said CPUC has no decisionmaking power re the LB application. That caused CPUC to sue FERC, which prompted FERC to seek the language now included in the federal Energy bill that would trump the lawsuit by making making FERC's legal supremacy unambiguous.
Below in pdf form is Mayor O'Neill's correspondence on behalf of City of LB: