(June 20, 2005) -- LBReport.com has learned that an amendment to preserve state and local safety, siting and environmental authority over Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facilities, co-sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., CA) may or may not get a showdown vote on the floor of the U.S. Senate as part of consideration of an advancing Energy bill. The amendment may reach the floor today (June 20) but is more likely on June 21, although this is also uncertain LBReport.com has learned.
Sen. Feinstein's office told LBReport.com last week that it has received and is reviewing a letter from outgoing Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) chair Pat Wood, III, whose agency would get unambiguous authority over LNG facilities as the Energy bill now stands. The FERC letter contends state and local input would remain under the bill without the Feinstein amendment.
The letter from chair Wood to Sen. Feinstein begins, "As a follow-up to our discussion on Friday June 10, 2005, enclosed is a description of how states, under the Coastal Zone Management Act, the Clean Air Act and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (Clean Water Act), can in effect "veto" proposed LNG projects that are onshore or in state waters."
LBReport.com posts FERC chair Woods' letter below.
Long Beach's leading anti-LNG activist, Bry Myown of Long Beach Citizens for Utility Reform, called Woods' letter "patently ridiculous" and took aim at its statement that the Senate Energy bill "specifically reserves state authorities under the Coastal Zone Management Act, the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act...[S]tate implementation of these Acts gives states a means to in effect 'veto' proposed LNG projects."
Reached at home where she has been monitoring the Senate's Energy bill debate, Ms. Myown said:
"FERC chairman Wood's claim that states can 'quote veto unquote' land-based LNG terminals would be laughable if it weren't so disingenuous. His letter makes clear that California's rights will be limited to the Environmental Protection Agency's, Air Resources Board's and Coastal Commission's enforcement under narrow provisions of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Coastal Zone Management Acts. Those laws have nothing to do with protecting human life from accident or terrorist attack unless Woods is suggesting that air, water and coastal permits might be denied on the grounds that burning bodies would generate pollution."
On May 20, Sens. Feinstein and Snowe introduced S. 1090 calling for concurrent federal and state authority over LNG terminal siting. The CA Senate and Assembly then called on President Bush and Congress to preserve state and local authority (SCR 40, by CA Sens. Lowenthal and Vincent).
CA Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has also co-signed a letter with the governors of new Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Delaware and Louisiana, opposing federal LNG supremacy.
On May 24, 2005, Mayor Beverly O'Neill wrote to Senators Feinstein, Domenici (R., NM, Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair) and Bingaman (D., NM, Ranking Minority Member, Energy and Natural Resources) opposing federal preemption language.
LB City Attorney Bob Shannon has said that although the Port of LB would retain ultimate authority as landlord over whether to lease the site (part of Pier T) for use as a proposed LNG facility, the Energy bill offers the Council no guarantee it will retain appeal oversight (for sufficiency) of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the LNG project.
Lawyers for the LNG project proponent, Sound Energy Solutions (SES), dispute City Attorney Shannon's view of the bill, saying it doesn't change the Council's EIR appeal authority and even if it did, it doesn't matter because SES has publicly declared it will seek EIR approval from the Port of LB subject to Council appeal authority.
As previously reported by LBReport.com, FERC has used SES' LB LNG application to assert exclusive jurisdiction over LNG terminal siting nationwide. That assertion is being contested by the CA Public Utilities Commission and Californians for Renewable Energy, Inc., in the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
The federal Energy bill -- which incorporates provisions sought by FERC -- would effectively trump the outcome of the litigation.
East coast Congressmembers, Governors and Attorneys General led the fight against federal LNG supremacy and LB remained relatively quiet on the preemption issue until Councilman Frank Colonna requested a report from LB City Attorney Shannon on April 19. That produced an 8-0 Council vote (Lowenthal absent) directing a strong city lobbying position against the federal preemptive language.
The LB LNG facility would be located roughly two miles from downtown LB, an area including high rise residences, office buildings, a convention center and tourist attractions (including the Queen Mary and Aquarium).
FERC chair Wood's letter text to Senator Feinstein follows:
The Honorable Dianne Feinstein
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator Feinstein:
As a follow-up to our discussion on Friday, June 10, 2005, enclosed is a description of how states, under the Coastal Zone Management Act, the Clean Air Act and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (Clean Water Act), can in effect "veto" proposed LNG projects that are onshore or in state waters. Also enclosed is the chart you requested identifying which coastal state agencies, in addition to those in California, have permitting authority under these three Acts.
I believe the existing legislative provision in section 381 of the Senate bill (June 8, 2005) maintains current state "veto" authority over proposed LNG projects. While the bill appropriately clarifies the Federal Energy Regulatory Commissionís exclusive authority to site LNG facilities that are onshore or in state waters, section 381 also specifically reserves state authorities under the Coastal Zone Management Act, the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. As we discussed, state implementation of these Acts gives states a means to in effect "veto" proposed LNG projects. With the single exception of the Texas Railroad Commission, which is elected, every coastal state agency that administers these Acts, including those agencies in California, are headed by gubernatorial appointees. As you are aware, the current chairs of the administering agencies in California were appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger.
If I may be of further assistance in this or any other matter, please donít hesitate to contact me.
Pat Wood, III