U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, along with lawmakers from three other states, are renewing an effort to take control of liquefied natural gas development away from federal energy regulators.
In a bill introduced Tuesday, six U.S. senators from Oregon, Washington, Connecticut and Maryland have resurrected legislation proposed in 2008 that would give LNG siting authority back to the states.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 took LNG licensing decisions away from the states and gave the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission the final word in approving the natural gas import facilities.
Six senators from states affected by LNG proposals say their constituents don't want the feds deciding where LNG terminals are built.
Democrats Wyden and Merkley teamed up with Sens. Chris Dodd, (D-Conn.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) to move legislation that would repeal the portions of the 2005 Energy Policy Act that took LNG siting authority away from the states and restore the previous licensing process.
Three LNG terminals have been proposed in Oregon, and two of them are on the Columbia River. The states of Oregon and Washington have appealed FERC's authorization of an LNG terminal at Bradwood Landing, 20 miles east of Astoria on the Columbia, and are currently awaiting a decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
"Oregonians have said time and again that they don't want some federal agency 3,000 miles away forcing LNG terminals on them," said Wyden in a statement released Tuesday. "I'm not going to stop until Oregonians get to decide whether or not they need LNG terminals and, if they do, where to put them."
The five-member FERC board conditionally approved the Bradwood Landing LNG project in September 2008, and granted conditional approval to the?Jordan Cove LNG project, in Coos Bay, in December of last year. A third Oregon project, Oregon LNG, proposed for Warrenton's Skipanon Peninsula, is still pending before FERC.
Oregon has repeatedly argued FERC jumped the gun by granting a conditional license to Bradwood project developer NorthernStar Natural Gas Inc. of Houston before the state had a chance to do its permit reviews.
LNG opponents in Oregon applauded the senators for reintroducing the bill and working to give states a bigger role in the approval process.
"Oregonians should have the right to decide our own energy future, and this bill will help us do so," said Brett VandenHeuvel, director of the anti-LNG group Columbia Riverkeeper. "LNG is hugely unpopular and is simply not acceptable."
Washington is also a party to the appeal of FERC's approval of the Bradwood project, which has a 36-mile gas transmission pipeline that would cross under the Columbia River and connect with the Williams Interstate Pipeline near Kelso, Wash.
"Liquefied Natural Gas terminals can have a huge impact on coastal communities and regional economies," Cantwell said in a statement released Tuesday. "This bill would restore the vital role local stakeholders should have in determining the merits of various proposals."
Among the senators' complaints are that FERC does not determine whether LNG projects are needed before allowing them to be built, nor does it determine whether alternatives to LNG projects could supply energy with less environmental impact.
State officials have challenged FERC's authority to site LNG projects in court and in administrative challenges before FERC itself.
"It just doesn't make sense to take states out of decisions that will affect their residents for years or decades to come," said Merkley, in a statement released Tuesday. "We need to give states a say and restore accountability. Momentous decisions about LNG terminals should only be done in partnership with local residents - not over their objections."
The new legislation introduced is identical to the bill introduced by Wyden in 2008. That bill was co-sponsored by Gordon Smith, an Oregon Republican senator at the time, and Barack Obama, who was then a Democratic senator from Illinois, as well as Sens. Cantwell, Cardin, Dodd, Kikulski, Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., and Hillary Clinton, a New York senator at the time.
The states of Maryland and Connecticut have also protested FERC's approval of LNG terminals in their states.
FERC approved the Broadwater LNG project, proposed for Connecticut's Long Island Sound, in March 2008, and authorized the Sparrows Point LNG project, proposed for Baltimore, Md., in January 2009.
"The people of Connecticut, and no one else, should have the right to decide if and where one of these facilities will be located in our state," Dodd said in a statement released Tuesday. "It's time to repeal this remnant of the Bush administration's anti-environmental policies and restore the decision-making regarding LNG terminals to the states and local authorities, where it belongs."