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    Senators Clinton, Boxer & Feinstein Vote "Yes" On Sending Fed'l Energy Bill w/ Local LNG Preemption To Senate-House Conference; Other Ocean State Senators Vote "No" And Say Why

    (July 28, 2005) -- Senators Hillary Clinton (D, NY), Barbara Boxer (D., CA) and Dianne Feinstein (D., CA) all voted in favor of a federal Energy bill, sending it to House-Senate Conference Committee with provisions stripping state and local bodies of safety and siting decisionmaking on Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facilities.

    The July 27 Senate vote was 85-12.

    This morning (July 28) the House passed the House-Senate conference agreed version of the Energy bill. The vote was 275-156, with Congressmembers Dana Rohrabacher (R, HB-LB-PV), Juanita Millender-McDonald (D., Carson-LB), Ed Royce (El Dorado-OC) and Linda Sanchez (Lakewood) voting "no." has separately posted the salient LNG text from the House-Senate conference bill. A Senate vote on the House-Senate conference bill could come on Friday (July 29).

    On July 27, Senator Clinton spoke in favor of the bill on the Senate floor..and did not mention its LNG provisions. However two coastal state Senators -- John Corzine, (D, NJ) and Jack Reed (R, RI) -- did discuss this at length. We post their Senate floor statement in pertinent part below:

    Mr. CORZINE: ...It is important to note that New Jersey is a State that already does its part in supporting energy production and refining for the Nation. Along with traditional power plants, we have three nuclear power plants, support siting of an LNG terminal and are looking into alternative energy sources. And New Jersey is the East Coast hub for oil refining. New Jersey is doing its part. [raises multiple issues]

    Finally, the underlying bill gives the Federal Government too much authority over the siting of liquefied natural gas terminals in their communities. I am very supportive of the proposed terminal in South Jersey, which is projected to provide energy to 4 to 5 million residences. Unfortunately, the State of Delaware has hampered the siting of this facility. These complications, however, do not justify ceding authority over New Jersey's choices about its energy supply to Washington. I am disappointed that the Senate failed to pass an amendment that would ensure States have authority over LNG terminal siting.

    ...I voted this bill out of committee with the hopes that by bringing it to the Senate floor, my colleagues and I could greatly improve the bill...[I]f the goal is to create a comprehensive energy policy that will move this Nation in a direction of energy security and independence, then the bill we voted on today in the Senate will not achieve that goal. It is my hope that this bill will be improved in the conference committee, and I urge my colleagues to take these important issues into account as we move forward.

    Mr. REED: ...On the domestic front, the siting of liquefied natural gas, LNG , import terminals is an issue that has taken on critical importance for me and for the people of Rhode Island in recent months, as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FERC, is now considering proposals by KeySpan Energy and Weaver's Cove Energy to establish LNG import terminals in Providence, RI and Fall River, MA, respectively.

    I recognize that natural gas is an important and growing component of New England and the Nation's energy supply, and that imported LNG offers a promising new supply source to complement our domestic natural gas supplies. In a post-September 11 world, however, we must consider the substantial safety and security risks associated with siting LNG marine terminals in urban communities and requiring LNG tankers to pass within close proximity to miles of densely populated coastline.

    That is the major problem with the current siting process and with the underlying bill before us. While States do have certain environmental permitting authorities delegated to them under Federal laws like the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Coastal Zone Management Act, States have no clear authority over the siting of LNG terminals in the one area that everyone is most concerned about: public safety and security.

    Senator Feinstein and I offered an amendment that would have ensured that States have an authentic voice in the siting of LNG terminals by giving Governors the same authority to approve or disapprove onshore terminals that they now have over offshore terminals under the Deepwater Port Act. If a Governor has the right to say yes or no to an offshore LNG terminal, it only makes sense that he or she should have the same rights with respect to an LNG terminal located onshore or in State waters. The National Governors Association agreed and wrote in strong support of our amendment.

    I know that some of the opponents of this amendment say this is all about NIMBY, or ``Not in My Backyard,'' as if the issue is that our constituents would just rather not have to see these storage tanks and large vessels. But it is a much more serious and complicated matter than that.

    The Sandia National Laboratory released a report last December that said a terror attack on a tanker delivering LNG to a U.S. terminal could set off a fire so hot it would burn skin and damage buildings nearly a mile away. For the terminals proposed in New England, that means schools, libraries, and thousands of homes, all within the damage zone. We can argue about the odds of such an attack, but when new LNG terminals are already being developed nearby in the Canadian maritime provinces--an area with reliable pipeline access to New England--and the first U.S. offshore LNG facility recently began receiving deliveries, there is no justification for placing these terminals in the heart of our communities.

    I again want to emphasize that I recognize LNG's important role in the energy infrastructure of Rhode Island and the Nation, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure reliable supplies of natural gas to our homes and businesses. I am disappointed that the Feinstein-Reed amendment was defeated, but our efforts have just begun. For now, I hope the 45 votes the amendment received will send a strong message to FERC that the agency should work more closely with Governors and the State environmental and first responder agencies that have firsthand knowledge of the geography and population of our States, so that we can bring more natural gas to our communities while minimizing the risk to our citizens...

    The vote, sending the Senate version to the House-Senate conference was 85-12 (3 not voting)

    YEAS--85: Akaka, Alexander, Allard, Allen, Baucus, Bayh, Bennett, Biden, Bingaman, Bond Boxer, Brownback, Bunning, Burns, Burr, Byrd, Cantwell, Carper, Chafee, Chambliss, Clinton, Coburn, Cochran, Coleman, Collins, Conrad, Cornyn, Craig, Crapo, Dayton, DeMint, DeWine, Dole, Domenici, Dorgan, Durbin, Ensign, Enzi, Feinstein, Frist, Graham, Grassley, Hagel, Harkin, Hatch, Hutchison, Inhofe, Inouye, Isakson, Jeffords, Johnson, Kennedy, Kerry, Kohl, Landrieu, Leahy, Levin, Lincoln, Lott, Lugar, McConnell, Mikulski, Murkowski, Murray, Nelson (NE), Obama, Pryor, Reid, Roberts, Rockefeller, Salazar, Santorum, Sarbanes, Shelby, Smith, Snowe, Specter, Stabenow, Stevens, Talent, Thomas, Thune, Vitter, Voinovich, Warner,

    NAYS--12: Corzine, Feingold, Gregg, Kyl, Lautenberg, Martinez, McCain, Nelson (FL), Reed, Schumer, Sununu, Wyden

    NOT VOTING--3: Dodd, Lieberman, Sessions

    As previously reported by, in June the U.S. Senate declined to adopt (tabled) an amendment by U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D., CA) to amend an advancing federal Energy bill offered by Sen. Dianne Feinstein that would have allowed Governors to veto decisions of the Fed'l Energy Regulatory Comm'n re the siting of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facilities. The vote to table was 52-45.

    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 Port 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 intends to comply with the current Port-Council EIR process.

    In June 2003, as first reported locally by, 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, 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. coverage, click here

    On May 24, as previously reported by, 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.

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