Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Who Influences FERC on LNG Decisions?

The Center for Public Integrity, a non-profit organization that investigates how government decisions get made, looked into how energy companies are influencing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which will be deciding on the Broadwater LNG proposal for Long Island Sound. Not surprisingly, the report found that the federal decision-makers spend a lot more time listening to industry officials than to those who oppose LNG terminals.

Here’s the jist:

After scores of private meetings with Big Oil giants such as Exxon/Mobil and ChevronTexaco, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is aggressively undermining the authority of state and local governments to reject dozens of proposed liquefied natural gas facilities all across the country.

The energy companies' influence with FERC and its chairman, Pat Wood III, is evident in schedules, letters, e-mails and handwritten notes obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by the Center for Public Integrity. The documents indicate an extremely close relationship between the commission and the industry it regulates.

Over the past three years, FERC's current four commissioners have met privately at least 83 times with executives and lobbyists representing oil and gas companies active in the LNG trade. In comparison, FERC has met privately only a handful of times with opponents of specific LNG projects.

Also not surprisingly, the industry likes to propose terminals for areas where they think opposition will be light.

Many of the new LNG facilities would be located near small communities like Fall River, Massachusetts, and Galveston, Texas—a tactic, critics say, designed to minimize opposition to the controversial facilities.

"I think it is no accident that the industry has chosen places like Fall River, which tend to be lower-income, working class communities where they don't expect educated opposition," said Mayor Ed Lambert. The New England mill town has tried to prevent a proposed LNG terminal from being built inside its city limits.

The report is dated December 7, so it isn’t new. But if you haven’t seen it or heard about it, read the whole thing.


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