Yesterday, the Senate Environment Committee either made a huge political blunder or they walked into an avoidableÂ ambush.Â
I wonder whose adviseÂ legislatorsÂ were listening to?
The firestorm was in response toÂ non-binding Senate Resolution 85, opposingÂ the development of liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities off the New Jersey coast.
The rhetoric was heated.
Some environmental groups, such as Clean Ocean Action (COA), have dubbed off shore LNG “insanity Island” and a huge threat to the ocean, natural resources, and fisheries.Â
COA’sÂ testimonyÂ conjured up the energy equivalent ofÂ “an invasion by a foreign country”. COA warnedÂ thatÂ LNG facilities would become targets for terrorists and that LNGÂ imports would come from “middle eastern” countries, including Yemen. COAÂ warned legislators that off shore LNGÂ would increase “foreign dependence” andÂ undermineÂ Homeland Security and “energy independence”. They said an LNG tanker had the explosive powerÂ ofÂ “55 Hiroshima bombs“.Â Â (I almost felt as if a 9/11 Mosque alert was next!).
COA managed to say all this in support of the Resolution,Â while giving GovernorÂ Christie a pass onÂ his campaign pledge and Earth Day promise to kill off shore LNG.
The lobbyist for one LNG project developer, Liberty Energy, fired back. He claimedÂ that the COAÂ testimony was flat out “false and misleading” and thenÂ proceeded to rebut via aÂ “Fact versus Fiction” factsheet. He said his $800 million investment would create 1,100 jobs andÂ have no impact on the ocean or create any emissions to the environment.
Organized labor was out in force, and framed the issue as a “vote against jobs”.
But why would anyoneÂ needlessly put themselves in such aÂ position, especially under current economic conditions and unemployment rate?
I say needlesslyÂ for several important reasons:
1) The legislature has no role in off shore LNG. The LNG permit review and approval process is pre-empted by federal law.
2) Even if the Legislature had jurisdiction, aÂ Resolution is aÂ non-binding andÂ essentially meaningless symbolic gesture. No gain, lots of pain.
3)Â Â The ONLY NJ official with a role in LNG approval process is the Governor, who has a veto power under federal law.
4) Governor Christie has pledged to use his veto power and already has come out in strong opposition to off shore LNG.Â Â
To high praise by COA and glowing press coverage, during Earth Week, Governor Christie held a big event down the shore (at a private beach club) to announce:
Gov. Christie issues potentially fatal blow to liquified natural gas proposalsFriday, April 23, 2010BY JAMES M. O’NEILLThe RecordSTAFF WRITERGovernor Christie used Earth Day on Thursday to issue a potentially fatal blow to private investors who want to build a $2.2 billion artificial island 20 miles off Sandy Hook for ships to unload liquefied natural gas.ÂÂ Christie expressed opposition to any facilities for liquefied natural gas off New Jersey’s coast, saying they “are not the answer for New Jersey’s needs.”
So why would a legislator agree toÂ hold a hearing on a symbolic gesture opposing a dead project the Governor already killed???
5. On top of all that, private sector economic forcasters say the glut of domestic gas has killed all investment prospects for LNG import facilities:
Â One by one, developers of US LNG import terminals pulled the plug this summer as overabundant domestic natural gas production turned what had been a challenging outlook for imported gas into an all but impossible business model. (full article here)Â Â
By the end of the hearing, Senator BeckÂ (R-Monmouth) wasÂ running away from supportingÂ theÂ Resolution and her Party’s Governor’s position to kill off shore LNG.
In our view, the entire hearing was an embarrassingÂ self inflicted wound that stoked a far broader anti-environmentalÂ backlash – and all for no nothing!!.
COA somehow had managed to lose the battle, undermine their credibility,Â strenghten their opponents, and let the Governor off the hook.Â Wow!
ps – In a comment to the Bergen Record story cited above, I submitted this comment:
Friday April 23, 2010, 12:33 PM – Gracus says:
How economically feasible are these projects in light of huge glut of domestic natural gas, including new large reserves in the Marcellus Shale? They were dead projects walking.