Thursday, March 23, 2006

FERC, LNG, Broadwater and Government Secrecy: Who Forgot to Lick the Envelope?

How careful is the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission with the supposedly sensitive safety and security information it’s gathering about proposals for new liquefied natural gas terminals, like Broadwater’s proposal for Long Island Sound?

If what happened in Fall River, Massachusetts, is typical, the answer would have to be, “Not very."

You might know what I'm talking about if you were watching NOW on PBS last Friday evening. I wasn’t, but Bryan Brown, who follows the Broadwater issue very carefully was, and he let me know about it over the weekend. There’s a transcript on the show’s website now, and it’s worth reading.

Remember that the polint of contention is this: If you’re concerned about Broadwater’s proposal and you want to review and comment on it, FERC will send you the details but only if you promise FERC you will not reveal those details. In other words, the information is so sensitive that if they send it to you and it clearly indicates the Broadwater terminal is a grave security risk, you can say so but you may not talk about or write about any of the details that led you to that conclusion.

In Fall River, where Hess wants to put a LNG terminal, Mayor Ed Lambert thought that was unacceptable so he had a constituent write to FERC and ask for the information. After five months FERC finally sent him what he asked for – via regular mail and in an unsealed envelope. There's more too.

Here’s the transcript. The Fall River segment is about a third of the way down. You can find it quickly by searching for “Lambert.”

Bryan Brown, by the way, tells me that FERC still hasn’t sent him the documents he requested. Here are the details, from earlier this month.


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