Friday, October 13, 2006

Is Lieberman a Broadwater Enabler? Lamont and Kennedy Say Yes

Long Island Sound and its future has finally entered the political arena. Ned Lamont, with the help of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., accused Joe Lieberman yesterday of undermining opposition to the Broadwater liquefied natural gas proposal by voting for the federal energy act last year.

The feeling in both Connecticut and New York is that if the decision to approve or deny Broadwater’s application were left to the states, denial would be guaranteed. But the energy bill gives that authority to the federal government. Here’s how the Stamford Advocate explained it:

The current bill gives the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, according to its text, "exclusive authority to approve or deny an application for the siting, construction, expansion, or operation of an LNG terminal."

So if you think the Broadwater proposal is a bad idea, which Lieberman has said he does, how could you have voted for the federal energy bill? Lieberman was the only Democratic senator from the northeast to do so.

Lieberman’s camp points out, correctly, that he has championed virtually all the important Long Island Sound cleanup legislation. They also point out that there were good reasons to vote for the energy bill despite the fact that it gives LNG siting decisions to FERC. Here’s what the Advocate reported:

[Lieberman spokeswoman Tammy] Sun said the bill resulted in a 63 percent reduction in potential utility rate increases; promoted fuel cell technology, which helps the environment and boosts Connecticut companies like Proton and United Technologies; and helped hold oil companies liable for contaminating clean drinking water.

But the Advocated also asserted this:

The senator's support of the energy bill, which environmentalists also criticized as providing a windfall in tax breaks to energy companies, dogged him throughout a primary campaign that focused on his support of Bush and his Republican agenda.

This is a good issue for Connecticut environmentalists to focus on, I think. Lieberman clearly supports the Long Island Sound cleanup, for which he deserves credit. On the other hand, it’s an easy issue to champion, one which every elected official supports and which it’s impossible to imagine Lamont not supporting. So if the Long Island Sound cleanup is important, you’ll get the same with Lamont as you’ve gotten with Lieberman.

On the other hand, if you think that President Bush is wrong about most issues and is barely competent to be president, and if you think as Lamont does that Lieberman is closely allied with Bush and will continue to support his policies, than the energy bill vote is simply another argument in your favor. This happens to be where I stand, although my eligibility to vote in the election ended six years ago when I moved out of Connecticut.

Lieberman says he’ll do whatever he can to stop Broadwater, including introducing specific legislation. It’s not clear to me why he hasn’t done so already.

Another thing to keep in mind is that it’s not as if Lieberman’s vote on the energy bill would have changed anything. If he had voted no, it would have passed 73 to 27.

But in some cases votes are all we have to base our decisions on.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Bryan said...

Tom,

I hope readers follow the link to the Advocate article not just to get more details on the Energy Act, but to read more about RFK, Jr.'s position.

Apparently, he's in favor of LNG, but only when it's properly sited. One of his objectives is to avoid people having to look at industrial areas in LIS.

I suppose RFK, Jr. should get credit for being consistent, because that's at least part of his reasoning behind his opposition to the Cape Wind project.

BTW, I look at Lieberman/Lamont the same way you do.

11:58 AM  
Blogger GMR said...

Does anyone really think that an LNG terminal would be allowed on land along the Connecticut coast or on the coast of Long Island, anywhere? It may not be appropriate for LI Sound, but if not, where is it ok to have it?

I have never heard anyone suggest a place that is ok for an LNG terminal in the area (I haven't been actively looking for this, so maybe someone has. But it usually seems as if someone just says there could be alternatives without mentioning specifics).

And if we don't want more energy infrastructure, then maybe we shouldn't allow any more building to take place in the area, and prevent anyone from hiring anyone.

2:41 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

Well, if somebody asked me if an LNG terminal could be built in New Haven by the Hess docks I might go along with that. It's in an already industrial area and there are no "pristine" waters or boating issues there. Certain parts of waters by Providence RI could also be considered, since the channels were deepened. These two ports already have security zones so little would have to be done on that front.

Offshore terminals can make some sense but I don't see any great areas in the Northeast. The LOOP terminal in Louisiana is one the the world's largest in terms of crude oil throughput (import) and it has a great track record, even with Katrina and all.

But if one tried to develop a project like the LOOP in the middle of Long Island Sound, I would think that would be the ultimate folly. /Sam

9:27 PM  
Anonymous Bryan said...

There were two applications for LNG marine terminals made to FERC within the last few years: one for Providence (KeySpan), one for Fall River (Weaver's Cove).

Providence was KeySpan's effort to turn an existing LNG storage facility into a terminal capable of taking deliveries by ship. FERC approved the application on the condition that KeySpan upgrade the existing tank to meet more recent codes. KeySpan says the conditions effectively deny the application because they can't take the tank of out service to do the work due to contractual obligations. They've filed an appeal. The LNG facility remains in operation, taking deliveries by truck (I don't believe it's a liquefaction plant).

Weaver's Cove was approved; however, there is an historic bridge that Weaver's Cove anticipated would be demolished. The bridge prevents large tankers from passing underneath. They based their application on large tankers making X deliveries per week. A RI or MA congressperson got some language included in a bill that prevented the bridge from being demolished (I believe the demolition was being done to make way for a larger bridge and was unrelated to Weaver's Cove). Weaver's Cove has to deal with the existing bridge remaining and has proposed to use smaller ships making more frequent trips. Those opposed to the project are requesting that FERC make Weaver's Cove redo their studies based on the smaller, more numerous ship calls.

These facilities aren't in CT, but Yankee Gas is constructing a 1bcf LNG storage facility in Waterbury. How many CT residents are even aware of it?

There are two LNG storage tanks in NYC (Astoria and Greenport). There is also an LNG storage facility in Holtsville on LI. All of these facilities store gas for reinjection in the winter when demand is high and gas pressure is low.

Within the last year, there was some publicity generated by some people looking to site a floating terminal between LI and NJ. Haven't heard anything more on it since the initial press conference.

NYS is currently in limbo viz. siting onshore LNG facilities. There was a moratorium on such facilities going back to 1976. I believe the moratorium has expired; however, NYSDEC never wrote the rules for siting such facilities. KeySpan and other utilities have been pushing to create a carve-out for small LNG facilities but the bills haven't passed in the legislature due to concerns from environmental groups that the bills have been sufficiently protective of the health and safety of residents. Fair disclosure: I am associated with one of the enviromnental groups that have been negotiating with KeySpan et al. over bill language.

Question to Sam: I read a news report about a gas pipeline explosion in the gulf caused by a barge. Sounds unbelievable that a pipeline wouldn't be buried deep enough to protect it from anchors and jacks. Can you provide any insight into what happened?

9:59 PM  
Blogger Nancy Swett said...

Broadwater is a vivid example of the Washington chickens coming home to roost. Lieberman, what a numbskull.

2:23 PM  

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