On the Record On LNG:Assemblyman Alan Lowenthal Supports CA Public Utilities Comm'n in Fight w/ FERC Over Who'll Decide LB LNG Proposal
State Senator Betty Karnette Says...
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(May 2, 2004, subsequently updated w/ transcription of audio coverage) -- LBReport.com wanted to know if Assemblyman Alan Lowenthal (D., LB-SP-PV) and state Senator Betty Karnette (D., LB) support having the CA Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) exercise jurisdiction (decisionmaking authority) over a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facility proposed by a Mitsubishi subsidiary in the Port of LB.
So we found them at local public events and asked them.
As previously reported by LBReport.com, in March 2004 the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) asserted exclusive federal jurisdiction over siting and safety issues concerning a proposal by a Mitsubishi subsidiary to build an 80+ million gallon LNG receiving, storage and regassification facility (with a smaller associated facility to strip ethane/propane from some LNG as required by CA environmental laws) within the Port of LB, roughly two miles from downtown LB.
After citing safety considerations and regulatory issues, CPUC voted unanimously on April 22, 2004 to press ahead with its own proceeding, indicating it considered FERC's legal reasoning erroneous. In an April 26 interview with LBReport.com, CPUC Commissioner Loretta Lynch said she believes CA lawmakers should be "up in arms" over FERC's position...and said state lawmakers should be backing CPUC. She added, "Governor Schwarzenegger should tell President Bush that FERC is out of control and should be reined in. This is California's decision, not the FERC's."
For its part, the Port of LB noted that it will have the last word on whether the project proceeds regardless of what FERC does (and the City Council will have review authority over sufficiency of any Port-certified EIR).
The project applicant, "Sound Energy Solutions" (which maintains a web site at www.soundenergysolutions.com) has also stressed that it intends to comply with permit requirements by state and local agencies including the CA Coastal Commission, South Coast Air Quality Management District and Port of LB among others.
The Port of LB is on state tidelands property. The constituents of both state lawmakers will be directly affected by the outcome of the LNG proceeding. The Port-site proposed by the Mitsubishi subsidiary has been public in general terms since roughly spring 2003, with details emerging during the fall and winter of 2003-04.
We preceded our question to both lawmakers by paraphrasing CPUC Commissioner Lynch's comment to us to the effect that she felt state lawmakers should be up in arms over FERC's action attempting to preempt CPUC authority, should support CPUC and should ask Gov. Schwarzenegger to ask the White House to help rein in FERC.
On April 29, LBReport.com attended a forum on the LNG proposal held by state Senator Betty Karnette. We approached her afterward and asked if she would ask the Governor to support CPUC.
Sen. Karnette: I am very much in support of our local people making the determinations about anything like this, like LNG. And when we were having our disagreements back in the energy crisis, we were very upset with FERC, and we felt like we were not being heard...I'm going to really study the facts and see what's going on, but right now I feel very strongly in supporting the community, the local people. We make our decisions. We know what's best for us.
LBReport.com: And [what about] the state agency? The CPUC in this case?
Sen. Karnette: Well at the present time, I'm feeling that if I support my locals, I'm supporting CPUC it would seem to me. I mean, what I said seems to support the CPUC, yeah.
LBReport.com: And I think the sense is, you said you'd be looking into this further?
Sen. Karnette: I'm going to be looking into it further...You've got to be careful if you're an intelligent person...You've got to be careful that you don't cut off other avenues of information. If you are determined that this is the only way, you make a mistake, because other information may come about, and I could change my mind. I don't plan on it but it's possible. I think intelligent people always leave an opening, because times change.
[Note subsequent action of Sen. Karnette on the issue, below]
On April 30, we buttonholed Assemblyman Lowenthal moments before he was set to appear at a LB event on another subject and asked for his view on whether CPUC should have regulatory authority in the LNG matter.
Assemblyman Lowenthal: ...I do support the [C]PUC's position and I think we should be doing whatever we can to either have PUC have standing in this case. I do not believe FERC's argument, that this deals with interstate commerce, this is coming from off-shore. This natural gas will be in California. The idea that FERC is saying we do not have standing [jurisdiction] in this case when PUC has raised very specific issues about safety issues, and environmental issues, that they want to have oversight, which is, all I'm saying is those issues have to be addressed, PUC has stepped up to the plate and said we want to address those issues, we haven't made a decision hut we have standing in this, and whatever I can do to support the PUC, whether it's to send a letter to the Governor, I think it's important that California have control over the siting of facilities within California borders.
Both the City of LB (via municipal utility LB Energy) and Port of LB (via publicly voted approval of the City Council and Board of Harbor Commissioners) have entered into contractual relationships with the project applicant making both LB government entities financially interested in the outcome of the LNG proceeding. However, neither body has to date voted approval for the project itself.
June 2004: LB State Senator Karnette Backs CA Public Utilities Comm'n In Fight w/ FERC Over Who Should Decide LB LNG Facility
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