PORTLAND, Ore. (AP)
U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., backed by influential peers, has introduced a bill in another try to recover state authority for licensing and siting liquefied natural gas terminals from federal energy regulators.
The Oregon Democrat is backed by presidential candidates Sens. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. and Barack Obama, D-Ill. as well as Connecticut Sens. Christopher Dodd and Joe Lieberman.
Wyden wants to repeal a section of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that transferred state authority for licensing LNG terminals to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Three of the terminals are in various planning stages in Oregon, two on the lower Columbia River and one near Coos Bay. Another has been approved for Long Island Sound between New York and Connecticut.
In 2005, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., tried to give governors the power to veto, or attach conditions to, FERC's decisions on terminal sitings, but her effort failed.
"We're going to have a better chance," Wyden said. "A measure we warned about has gone into effect, and the harmful consequences are even greater than imagined. Senators are seeing that this is a byproduct of a Bush energy bill that has many flaws."
Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski has threatened to withhold state permits and go to court if FERC doesn't protect state interests.
The terminals receive supercooled gas from massive ships, which store it in huge tanks, then warm it back into a gas for shipment to market via pipeline.
Each project in Oregon could import far more gas than Oregonians use and include pipelines through forests, vineyards and farms.
FERC also is considering an application for a high-capacity pipeline that would carry gas from basins in the Wyoming Rockies to southern Oregon.
Backers of the LNG projects maintain that imported gas will dampen price increases when Canadian and domestic gas fields decline, and refer to LNG's excellent safety record.
Neither Kulongoski nor Wyden has expressed outright opposition to a terminal in Oregon. But state agencies have complained that FERCs draft environmental review of the Bradwood Landing terminal on the Columbia River was seriously flawed.
Most of Oregon's political leaders say FERC hasn't met two requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act: demonstrating a public need for the facility and fully analyzing alternatives.
FERC has declined to analyze the cumulative impact of the proposed terminals and pipeline projects, or determine which facility, if any, would best serve the states need.
FERC Chairman Joe Kelliher says the agency intends to ensure that each proposal is environmentally sound and consistent with safety requirements, then let the market decide which one gets built.
State leaders say they'll fight that approach. Kulongoski has asked Attorney General Hardy Myers to research the state's legal authority to withhold necessary permits under state clean air, clean water and coastal zone management acts if FERC doesn't address his concerns.
Wyden said Monday that he considered the FERC process no process at all.
"It's not going to address the issue of supply; it doesn't address the environmental issues. ... We have a huge array of proposals pending, bringing in far more gas than we could ever use, yet the federal agency won't even address the threshold questions," Wyden said.
FERC is working on a biological assessment and final environmental review of the Bradwood Landing terminal, which it could deliver early this summer.
NorthernStar Natural Gas, backer of Bradwood, said the 2005 transfer of regulatory oversight from state to federal authorities has already delayed its application.
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