North America LNG / LPG News
LNG Companies Not Deterred By Coast Guard Security Role
by Patrick Anderson, The Salem News, Mass. Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
May 01, 2008
Two companies opening liquefied natural gas ports off the coasts
of Gloucester and Marblehead say a bill that would increase the Coast Guard's
role in enforcing security around gas terminals will not slow down their
The bill, opposed by the White House, has been approved by the U.S. House
of Representatives. A similar version is making its way through the U.S.
The new security requirements, part of an $8.4 billion Coast Guard
reauthorization bill passed overwhelmingly by the House on Thursday, would
make the Coast Guard responsible for policing security perimeters around LNG
facilities, zones where other ships are barred. Lawmakers consider the natural
gas off-loading sites potential terrorist targets.
With the stepped-up role in enforcement, the bill also gives the Coast
Guard greater authority to review the security plans made by LNG companies to
make sure the agency has the resources needed to enforce them.
The bill says LNG operators cannot assume to receive security assistance
from state and local authorities, unless those state and local authorities
have signed agreements promising assistance.
The White House and a small group of Republican representatives who have
opposed the bill say it amounts to more red tape for energy companies and will
further strain the Coast Guard, which has numerous other homeland security
Supporters of the bill, which passed 395-7, say it gives the Coast Guard,
which is already taking the lead in protecting LNG terminals from attack, the
authority it needs to make sure plans made by energy companies are
Carroll Churchill, spokeswoman for Suez Energy, the company building the
$6 million Neptune offshore terminal, around 10 miles southeast of Gloucester,
said yesterday that even without the bill, her company would have to have its
plans approved by the Coast Guard.
She said the new bill might require companies to go higher up the Coast
Guard chain of command for approval, but it was too early to tell for certain.
"The Coast Guard would be mandating what the security zone would be
anyway," Churchill said. "Whether this bill would change that we don't know
yet. We are very security-conscious and will do whatever it takes."
Suez plans to have its security proposal for Neptune completed and sent
to the Coast Guard by year's end, Churchill said, and is on track to have gas
flowing into the project by the end of 2009.
The area's other LNG project, the Northeast Gateway Energy Bridge run by
Texas-based Excelerate Energy, is even closer to being operational. Spokesman
Douglas Pizzi said yesterday that the terminal was finished and just waiting
for its first gas-laden ship to arrive sometime in mid-May.
Pizzi said because the bill had yet to pass the Senate and could still be
subject to change before becoming law, his company did not have an official
position on it.
"The company is looking at it, but we really don't know what the result
will be because it is still early," Pizzi said.
The Coast Guard this year approved a security perimeter prohibiting ships
from sailing within 500 meters of the Northeast Gateway buoy, located 13 miles
southeast of Gloucester, when a tanker is unloading there.
Congressman John Tierney, D-Salem, said yesterday the bill should give
the Coast Guard sufficient control over LNG facilities to be able to make sure
they do not present a strain on the agency's resources.
"The Coast Guard's practice now has been to assume providing security
around the facilities," Tierney said. "The bill continues their authority, but
makes it clear that there is a security zone that is sufficient. The Coast
Guard makes sure the plan is adequate."
Tierney said the current language of the bill could be made clearer and
he welcomed changes from the Senate that would emphasize the Coast Guard's
authority in siting LNG facilities.
U.S. Sen. John Kerry in statement said yesterday he supports the new LNG
provisions and thinks they will make the state safer.
Multiple calls to Coast Guard officials and spokesmen at the First
District station in Boston yesterday were not returned.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this story.
Copyright (c) 2008, The Salem News, Mass. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
Suez LNG NA
Gloucester, MA United States