On Exxon Valdez Anniversary, Nationwide Call for State Authority in LNG Decisions, Natural Gas Export Ban

For Immediate Release

Environmental Groups
Contact: 

Rory Cox, California Program Director, Pacific Environment: 415.399.8850 x302
Dan Serres, Conservation Director, Columbia Riverkeeper, 503.890.2441

On Exxon Valdez Anniversary, Nationwide Call for State Authority in LNG Decisions, Natural Gas Export Ban

SAN FRANCISCO - On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, a nationwide coalition of over 50 organizations and businesses, representing communities in 10 states, have demanded legislation which would return permitting authority for all Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) import terminals to individual states. The groups also demanded a ban on exporting natural gas produced in the United States. The demands were written in a letter which was sent to members of the Senate Energy Committee. The groups chose to send the letter on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill as a reminder of how poor oversight of coastal energy projects can lead to environmental and economic catastrophes for local communities.

According to the letter, "FERC has demonstrated disregard for local concerns over these (LNG) projects, and has operated under a philosophy of permitting projects whether or not there is proof the project is necessary." Further, the letter calls for the U.S. to enact a natural gas export ban, stating, "Recently, the boom of natural gas production in North America has led to increased interest in exporting U.S natural gas onto the world market as LNG. We believe this is a dangerous trend that works against U.S. national security, ratepayer interests, and grid reliability."

According to Rory Cox, California Program Director at Pacific Environment, "A few years ago, all we heard from the LNG industry were Chicken Little scenarios of an imminent natural gas shortage in North America. Now we're hearing that we have so much natural gas we can send it out to the rest of the world, but we also need import terminals. This letter is a call to restore some sanity in energy policy, to listen to local concerns, and to stop letting hedge fund speculators run U.S. energy policy."

"Local communities and local elected officials possess detailed knowledge of a state's natural resources. FERC has routinely ignored local knowledge and concerns which need to be considered in energy infrastructure siting," said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. "Reestablishing State's rights is essential to providing a holistic approach to managing our natural resources and siting energy infrastructure."

Background:

FERC and LNG terminal siting: A provision of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 gave the lead siting authority of LNG import terminals built on U.S. shores and in waters up to three miles offshore to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and in the process stripped much of that authority away from state and local governments. According to citizen activists fighting LNG terminals, this has led to an unfair advantage for the LNG companies, who do not need to prove that their project is needed, and who have benefitted from what has been an industry-friendly commission. In some cases, this has put state governments at odds with FERC, as governments in states such as Oregon, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey have to weather strong public opposition to the projects. As FERC does not hold this authority over projects more than 3 miles off-shore, this has also led to an uneven playing field, where states retain permitting authority over offshore terminals. This was exercised when the State of California rejected an LNG terminal off of Ventura County in 2007.

Natural gas export ban: Currently, the U.S. only exports natural gas to Japan out of one small LNG terminal located in Kenai, Alaska. However, there has been an increasing amount of interest from industry analysts and speculators for the U.S. to ramp up exports of natural gas to the world market through newly built LNG export terminals. Already, a terminal that was proposed to import LNG into British Columbia, Canada, called Kitimat, has changed its plans to become an exporter of Canadian natural gas to Pacific Rim markets. Because natural gas on the international LNG market sells for a higher amount than domestic natural gas in the U.S., this would likely lead to higher natural gas prices in the U.S. This would result in higher utility bills, would increase greenhouse gas emissions from the processing and shipping of natural gas, and would stymie the replacement of highly polluting but cheaper coal power with natural gas in regions of the U.S. such as the East Coast and Mid-west that are largely coal-dependent. An LNG export terminal requires different equipment than an import terminal, as it needs to super-cool natural gas that is piped to the facility in order to liquefy it.

The letter is available for download at this URL: http://www.lngpollutes.org/article.php?id=1434

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