Wednesday, July 06, 2005

A State role in LNG Siting

Garbage in, garbage out is the bottom lesson from yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle editorial on LNG:

There are no LNG facilities in California today, but four offshore projects are proposed and of those, two -- one near Long Beach, the other near Oxnard -- are getting serious scrutiny. Yet there is no real way to compare these four wildly differing proposals. One converts an oil-drilling platform to this new use. Another facility floats. Under some proposals, the terminal owner would buy the gas on the open market. Under another, the owner would buy exclusively from an energy partner.

...State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, has introduced legislation to have the state Energy Commission determine need and then rank proposals. The bill (SB426) has passed in the Senate and is now in the Assembly.

Bill opponents, among them the California Chamber of Commerce, argue that calculating need is better left to the marketplace. Existing federal and state requirements are adequate and a new layer will only delay bringing facilities online, they maintain.

...Competitively priced energy is crucial to the state's economy. So are public safety, security and the environmental health of California.

If an LNG terminal is in the state's future, then there should be a regional plan to address its siting and operation, not a marketplace scramble. SB426 offers a way to put one in place.

First of all, the Chronicle begins with the false assumption that both the Oxnard and Long Beach proposals are offshore, when, in fact, the Mitsubishi project in Long Beach is onshore and will fall under FERC authority once the federal Energy Bill becomes law.

While it makes sense to have state input over LNG, nothing can be done at the State level to assert authority over the federal government. SB 426 will, in fact, create extra bureaucracy and delays for projects which already have sufficient State inputs and give projects without any State scrutiny an advantage to get online first.