East Coast Dems Lead Fight To Delete Fed'l LNG Superiority From House Energy Bill; LB Congressmembers Rohrabacher & Millender-McDonald Vote FOR Amendment; Amendment Fails; Energy Bill Advances w/ Verbiage Trumping Local Control
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LB Activist Blasts LB's Relatively Low Visibility Stance To Date On Issue
Councilman Colonna Calls Special Meeting of Council's Fed'l Legislation & Enviro Affairs Committee Friday (April 22)
(April 22, 2005) -- East coast House Democrats led a high-visibility and partially successful fight -- while LB representatives voted to support but watched silently following belated, relatively low-visibility advocacy by LB City Hall -- to amend part of an advancing federal Energy bill that, as currently written, could strip CA of decisionmaking and LB of environmental review over an 80+ million gallon Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facility proposed roughly two miles from downtown LB.
The relatively low visibility stance of CA's fifth largest city -- whose nationally impacting port is the site of the LNG proposal that spawned the state vs. federal controversy -- prompted LB activist Bry Myown to say:
"I was saddened but not surprised that Long Beach's position never made it to the floor debate. The people of Long Beach owe a great debt to the Eastern Democrats who not only had the foresight to begin waging this fight last year but who also consistently communicated that LNG does not belong near densely populated areas. That said, if the Port of Long Beach insists it has the last word, it should exercise its prerogative immediately and not wait to see what might occur in the Senate."
Apart from LB Council and Port passed resolutions and some related correspondence, LB officialdom has been relatively quiet...compared to communities elsewhere in which Governors, Mayors and local officials have loudly criticized proposed LNG facilities as well as provisions in the proposed Energy bill and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's conduct in current LNG proceedings.
In powerful advocacy that appeared to disorient some Republicans, Congressman Ed Markey (D., MA) brought to the House floor and displayed a huge photograph (which appeared to be roughly six feet long) of an LNG tanker passing by densely populated parts of Boston harbor. [LBReport.com is attempting to obtain the photo for reproduction on our web site.] Standing alongside the compelling visual image, Congressman Markey said [text from Congressional Record]:
Mr. Chairman, this photo behind me is an LNG tanker in Boston Harbor delivering LNG to Everett, Massachusetts. Right behind you can see East Boston High School. If there was a terrorist attack, if there was an accident, you would not call the Federal Government. It would be the local police, the local fire department, the local emergency medical technicians that would respond.
The Republican bill eliminates the State and local participation in determining where a facility like this would be placed. Now, it is not like there is a crisis. In America there were two of these facilities in 2001. There are now five. Six more have already been licensed by the State governments and the Federal Government in the United States. There is no crisis.
So why are the mayors, why are the Governors being walled out? It is because the Republican majority wants to hand it over to the Federal Government and to the natural gas industry. But it would be very dangerous to exclude the communities that are most affected, especially when States know they need the LNG, we admit that, but we want to put it in more remote areas in the State or perhaps offshore and have it be piped in. But the Republican majority says, no, we want to put it in the most densely populated areas and wall out all Governors, all State officials.
Vote ``yes'' for the Castle amendment. Protect States' rights.
The compelling photograph caused House Energy Committee chair Joe Barton (R., TX) to remark, "I commend the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Markey) on his visual."
House Republicans, who came equipped to argue that the Energy bill's expansion of federal power would promote jobs and prosperity, appeared taken aback by the Democrats' advocacy...which applied traditional Republican themes of local control and states rights.
Democrat after Democrat, joined by a prominent Republican from an ocean-front state (Chris Shays (R., NJ), mounted a fierce attack:
Mr. ANDREWS (D., NJ). Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of my friend's amendment.
When there is a decision being made to site a plant which, if there were an accident, could be catastrophic, I think that the people who make the decision whether to build the plant or not should be politically accountable to the people who live in the place where the plant is going to be sited, they should have visited the place where the plant is going to be sited, and they should have some clue as to what the locality is of where the plant will be sited.
The issue is who gets to decide, a stranger or someone intimately familiar with the community.
For all those who believe in home rule, vote ``yes'' on the Castle amendment.
Mr. SHAYS (R., NJ). Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding me time.
I support the Castle-Markey amendment and would say to my fellow Republicans, if this is the party that believes in local government and decisions being made on the local level and the State level as opposed to the Federal level, you would be supporting this amendment.
It seems absolutely clear as can be to me that if you do not give authority, some authority, and rights to States and local communities, you are going to have companies come in and bully their way because they will not have to be answerable. They will not have to work out problems with their States and local governments. They will just have the capability to advise, and advice means very little.
[Begin written inserted material]
...There are risks as well as benefits associated with the siting and expansion of LNG terminals in populated areas. It is essential states be able to evaluate their effect on sensitive coastal areas. In Long Island Sound just off Connecticut, there is a very real possibility that a facility will be sited with little to no state or local input.
We propose an amendment to restore the role of state and local authority in citing decisions. States and localities should be able to maintain the ability to review and impact decisions that could pose serious environmental and health hazards to its coastal areas and its citizens.
My party has always believed state and local governments know best what works in their communities.
Mr. Chairman, while energy security is a national issue, it seems to me, local communities, who will live with our decisions far into the future, deserve a voice in the decision-making process.
...Mr. KENNEDY (D., RI): Mr. Chairman, we had a [Republican] speaker...who said that we were going to have to give up jobs, taxes and energy security if we had a pipeline that brought gas to Florida from out of the country.
I will tell my colleagues, in Rhode Island we would welcome the chance to have our gas piped in from some other country because the fact of the matter is, our State knows, as every other State that has an LNG facility knows, that if we were to ever have that explode, it would decimate a 50-mile radius.
We will take our lives over our jobs, over our taxes, over our security. Let us support the Castle amendment.
Mr. MARKEY (D., MA) [second time]...Mr. Chairman, this issue is one of whether or not you want the Federal Government to decide if you are on a coastline in the United States that an LNG facility is coming to your district. If you want your governor, your mayors to have a role, some role, in deciding where an LNG facility is located, which would have catastrophic consequences if there was an accident or terrorist attack, you vote ``aye'' on the Castle amendment.
If you just want the Federal Government to decide in the middle of your district where this most attractive of all terrorist targets will be located, then you vote ``no,'' but understand the consequences on the floor today.
Clearly smarting from the attack -- and Cong. Markey's use of the compelling photographic imagery -- Congressman Joe Barton (R., TX), chair of the House Energy Committee, came to the well of the House...and in a dramatic moment asked to have Markey's photo put next to him as he spoke.
"I hope the Lord doesn't strike me [down for this]," Cong. Barton said in a remark captured by C-SPAN microphones [although missed in the Congressional Record]. Cong. Barton then said:
Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the Castle-Markey amendment, and I wanted this [the photo] behind me.
When I look at this, what I see is energy for America, I see security for America, and I also see safety. Admittedly, it is a big boat and it looks threatening, I will grant that; but we already have existing provisions in law to make sure that these terminals that are already in existence are as safe it is possible to be. I am not aware of any major accident, and I would stand corrected if the gentleman from Delaware (Mr. Castle) or the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Markey) says there has been, but I am not aware of that.
This particular section of the bill that is before us simply says that we are going to need more LNG facilities, which is shorthand for liquefied natural gas; and we have tried to craft in the guarantee that the State has a stronger role, not a weaker role. We do not preempt any State permit. If the State of Massachusetts or Delaware or California or any other coastal State, if through their own permitting process they make the decision that the terminal should not be built, it will not be built.
What this provision does is, if a State agency has not made a decision, has refused to make a decision, and one of the parties goes into the district court here in Washington, D.C., and asks that a decision be made, that will expedite the decision-making process.
For the first time, if this provision of the bill were to become law, we would give the States a guarantee to actually go in and inspect these facilities under Federal law, not under State law, but under Federal law. They do not have that right now.
I have told the gentleman from Delaware, and I will tell the gentleman from Massachusetts, if we defeat this amendment and we go to conference with the existing language and we need to in some way strengthen the States' rights end of this provision, I am going to be for that. I come from a coastal State.
I come from a coastal State. I want the safest possible. That is why we have the increased State guarantee in the bill, because I insisted upon it; but we cannot stick our heads in the sand and say we do not need more LNG facilities.
We need more energy for America. I wish we could produce it within our shores, but it does not look like that is going to be possible. We are going to have to go offshore.
We have about 30 pending permits for LNG facilities right now under consideration, and what this language does in the bill is give an expedited provision that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is the lead agency to expedite the Federal part of it. I believe this actually strengthens the State role.
So I would respectfully ask for a ``no'' vote on the Castle-Markey amendment, and then what we need to work on in the conference we will work on.
The amendment failed 194-237. As reported in a FLASH yesterday on LBReport.com's front page, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (HB-LB-PV) crossed party lines to vote FOR the amendment. Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald (D., LB-Carson) also voted for the amendment. Congressman Ed Royce (NE LB/OC) voted against the amendment.
Congressman Barton's public concession to amend the LNG section (which a week earlier he had called among the most important parts of the bill) is now significant as the bill moves to the Senate, a development reflecting mainly work by east coast representatives...and without a commensurate presence in the debate to date by CA's fifth largest city...which could be directly impacted by the outcome.
Meanwhile, as also reported yesterday (April 21) in a FLASH announcement on LBreport.com's front page, Councilman Frank Colonna has called a special meeting of Council's Fed'l Legislation & Environmental Affairs Committee for Fri. April 22 @ 3:00 p.m. in the Council Chamber. Its agendized subject:
"Update on the City's efforts to oppose the LNG provisions in the House Energy Bill and the results of the Police and Fire Department's assessment of the LNG facility in the Boston Area."
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