Mayor O'Neill Hasn't Raised LB's LNG Issues Re Fed'l Energy Bill With Chair of Conference of Mayors' Energy Committee; Mayor's Chief of Staff Says O'Neill Can Raise Issue When Policy Resolutions Debated Monday
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(June 12, 2005) -- The chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayors' Energy Committee has told LBReport.com that LB Mayor Beverly O'Neill -- a member of the Conference's top leadership for the past year and about to become the group's president -- has not spoken to him about parts of an advancing federal Energy bill on Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facilities opposed by the City of LB as damaging to local control.
Mayor Bob Young of Augusta, GA, chair of the group's Energy Committee told LBReport.com tonight (June 12) that Mayor O'Neill "has never spoken to me about the LNG issue." Mayor Young also noted that the Conference's list of proposed resolutions doesn't include one opposing parts of the federal Energy bill on federal preemption re LNG even though the Conference has resolutions before it on "all kinds of things, even relations with Cuba."
Reached for comment in Chicago by LBReport.com, Mayor O'Neill's Chief of Staff, Cathy Wieder, told LBReport.com:
"The proposed resolutions are coming before the full Conference of Mayors on Monday [June 13] and at that time Mayor O'Neill will have the opportunity to make any comments on the issue. She isn't part of the Conference's Energy Committee. We're reviewing the resolutions now and she will be looking at the proposed Energy resolutions before they come to a full vote of the Conference."
Ms. Wieder said Mayor O'Neill can make a motion to amend a proposed resolution and added that "the issue is absolutely in play. The resolutions don't come to a full vote of the Conference until Monday and at that time Mayor O'Neill certainly will have an opportunity to comment and offer amendments."
Informed of the Mayor's position, Bry Myown of LB Citizens for Utility Reform, told LBReport.com, "That's not good enough. Long Beach residents have been threatened by federal takeover of LNG decisions for more than a year. This isn't an item to bring at the last minute. She should have been speaking about it and lobbying about it all along."
An April 20 letter [one day before the House vote] addressed to "Dear Representative" jointly signed by the Executive Directors of the National League of Cities, National Association of Counties and U.S. Conference of Mayors stated in pertinent part:
[W]e are opposed to the language [in the House version of the federal Energy bill] that would allow FERC [Fed'l Energy Regulatory Commission] to preempt the state/local decision-making process when siting energy related facilities and infrastructure such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities. The issue is balancing energy needs versus what is best for a region. State and the local governments know what is best for the regional interests. For example, is the project consistent with local growth and development plans? What are the environmental impacts on the community? Are there any special regional environmental characteristics that would be adversely impacted by the proposed infrastructure? If the federal government is permitted eminent domain authority over siting issues, the states and localities lose this essential voice.
Neither the House version of the federal Energy bill, (nor its subsequently released and now pending Senate counterpart) contain eminent domain language (which was sought by FERC months earlier).
The April 20 letter on behalf of the three organizations also opposes parts of the Energy bill creating "refinery revitalization zones" and MTBE liability protection, the latter a position that the Conference of Mayors has advocated publicly for months. A resolution on MTBE is among dozens of policy resolutions awaiting a vote by the Conference on Monday.
Mayor Young said he wasn't told by Mayor O'Neill or anyone else about the April 20 letter (until we told him about it) but noted that the position "is certainly consistent with the Conference's historic position favoring local control."
In terms of LB City Hall legislative advocacy, on April 21 (the day the full House of Representatives voted on proposed amendments to the federal Energy bill) a letter stating the City of LB's "strong opposition" to the current [LNG] provisions of the bill -- signed by Mayor O'Neill on her Mayoral letterhead -- was faxed to the chair of the House Energy Committee. Roughly a week earlier, the House Energy Committee rejected an amendment to delete the bill's LNG provisions. The Mayor's letter was cc'd to House Energy committee members, two east coast Democrats who supported the amendment and Congressmembers Juanita Millender-McDonald (D., Carson-LB), Dana Rohrabacher (R, HB-LB-PV) and Linda Sanchez (D., Lakewood). The LNG amendment failed on the House floor and the bill advanced with verbiage opposed by LB City Hall.
In a letter dated March 22 to Senator Pete Domenici (R, NM), chair of the Senate's Energy & Natural Resources Committee, Mayor O'Neill -- again writing on behalf of the City on her Mayoral letterhead -- urged support "in ensuring that localities throughout the nation maintain their authority in making important local land-use decisions.".
The U.S. Conference of Mayors is scheduled to debate and vote on its policy resolutions on Monday June 13.
On Tuesday June 14, the U.S. Senate is scheduled to take up the federal Energy bill.
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