Changes In Offshore Environmental Authority Threatens Coastlines

July 25, 2002
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(25 July 2002 -- Washington) Environmental Defense submitted comments for today's congressional hearing on a new bill proposing that the Department of Interior be granted broad new authority for permitting of terminals, conversion plants and pipelines for Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facilities in federal waters as well as for all future wind and wave energy installations offshore.

Today's hearing before the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources is to consider a bill, HR 5156, authored by Subcommittee Chair Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-WY).  This hearing is being held at 2 pm Eastern, July 25, in 1334 Longworth HOB, Washington DC.  HR 5156 would delegate permitting authority over LNG facilities, wind-electric generators, and wave power projects to the Minerals Management Service of the Department of Interior.

"There is no evidence of a need to centralize all control over Liquefied Natural Gas, wind and wave permitting under the Department of Interior," said Richard Charter, marine conservation advocate with Environmental Defense.  "Any of these industrial facilities can have a range of documented adverse impacts on the shoreline, the sea and the economically-important biological resources.  Coastal states and local communities need to be kept in the decision making loop, and existing laws, which protect the environment should not be circumvented."

HR 5156 would, in the near term, primarily benefit the petroleum industry by providing sponsors of new LNG projects with a shortcut mechanism by which to avoid the existing federal jurisdictions.  Major LNG projects are currently being proposed for the Bahamas/Eastern Florida region, the Oxnard and the San Francisco Bay Area in California, and the other major West and East Coast port cities.  States and localities have expressed legitimate concerns over the substantial explosion hazards posed by LNG tankers, terminals and conversion plants.  HR 5156 has been proposed for inclusion in the now pending House-Senate Conference deliberations on the Energy Bill and thus could be enacted into law with little oversight by the committees of jurisdiction in the Congress.