The amendment I am introducing with Senators Mikulski, Snowe, Dodd, Kerry, Reed, Kennedy, Whitehouse, Boxer and Lieberman would restore the authority of State and local governments to protect the environment and ensure public safety with respect to the siting of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminals within their States. This measure simply gives our States a say in whether these kinds of facilities should be built within their boundaries and, if so, their exact location.
The amendment adds a provision to the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899. Under that law, the Army Corps of Engineers, acting for the Secretary of the Army, is responsible for issuing permits to anyone who wants to build a structure in and above the waters of the United States. These are often called Section 10 permits because that’s where the provision is found in the Rivers and Harbors Act.
Currently, the Army Corps issues all such permits. In the narrow conditions outlined in our amendment, the Corps would have to get the concurrence of the affected State before issuing a permit to build an LNG terminal. That’s all. Just work with the States.
This amendment is about LNG, and the special considerations it needs, and about the issuance of permits by the Army Corps of Engineers. But it is also about federalism. The Federal Government does not have all the answers. All of us, I think, can point to examples in our States in which State Government has done a better job than the Federal Government.
We should take advantage of each State’s unique understanding of the issues it faces and make sure that expertise is considered in a meaningful way.
That is why the Coastal States Organization supports this amendment. The Coastal States Organization represents 35 coastal states and territories, representing the interests of the Governors of coastal states and territories on legislative and policy issues.
In a letter of support, the Executive Director of the Coastal States Organization puts it clearly: “This amendment does not block LNG terminals; it simply gives Governors a meaningful voice in siting decisions.”
This amendment does not limit the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission (FERC). FERC will still be able to make its decisions regarding the siting, construction, and operation of LNG facilities. FERC has that blanket authority. So be it. But the Army Corps of Engineers also has a say in whether such a facility can be built in the waters of the United States, and so today we turn to the Corps for relief.
In recent years, the LNG industry has proposed building dozens of new LNG terminals throughout the United States, as LNG’s share of the natural gas market continues to grow rapidly.
Many of these terminals are being planned near populated areas or in environmentally sensitive coastal areas. We are simply seeking an opportunity for states to have a meaningful opportunity to take those safety and environmental issues into account.
Maryland is already home to one of six operating LNG terminals in the United States. This bill would not affect that facility at all. In fact, that facility is generally welcomed by its host community and is supported by the county and local elected officials. This is as it should be. Companies that want to build LNG terminals should work with the local community and address all the safety, economic and environmental issues and secure the community’s support. It can be done. We have the proof here in Maryland.
So, Mr./Madam President, this amendment is not designed to stop LNG terminals. It is solely to make sure that such projects are sited properly. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.
AES Sparrows Point LNG and Mid-Atlantic Express have proposed building a new terminal near a densely-populated area of Baltimore.
Our area Congressional Delegation, Governor O’Malley, Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith, and other local officials and community leaders believe this project poses unacceptable public safety, economic, and environmental risks and does not serve the public interest.
Yet, under current law, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission now has exclusive authority to approve onshore LNG terminal siting applications. But these facilities still must obtain appropriate environmental permits, including a Section 10 permit under the provisions of the Rivers and Harbors Act.
It is vital, in my opinion, that state and local authorities and the public have a meaningful opportunity to participate in the decision-making process about where these plants are located. An accident or terrorist act at an LNG terminal could have a devastating impact on the communities nearby so they should have a voice in its siting.
The amendment we are considering today seeks to restore that authority and give Governors some real clout. The proponents of building LNG terminals should have to negotiate in good faith with states and local communities if they want those communities to bear the risks associated with such an operation.
My amendment doesn’t prohibit the construction of LNG terminals. It merely “levels the playing field” with regard to determining where they will be located. I urge my colleagues to join us in supporting this amendment.
I reserve the balance of my time and yield the floor.