There are shad that use Long Island Sound like a migration
expressway, finicky lobsters that hide in its crevices, and delicate
oysters that thrive in its muck. Egrets patrol its shoreline, and
ospreys soar over the bays. It's a body of water that should defy
"industrialization" - at least that's the way Adrienne Esposito, an
environmental activist, sees the 1,380-square-mile body of water.
But the waves of the sound lap on two states with some of the
nation's highest energy rates. And last year, some 687 commercial
vessels navigated its shoals and channels without serious incident.
So, as energy executive John Hritcko sees it, the sound is the
perfect place to moor a barge that will offload liquefied natural
gas (LNG) that may help to solve a regional energy problem.
The two sides represent one of the latest clashes over the
environment, as well as states' rights.
With the nation paying dearly for its power consumption, large
energy corporations would like to build 30 to 40 LNG terminals in
the United States, mostly in coastal communities. But such ideas are
meeting with resistance at every step of the way. Any day now, for
example, a federal appeals court in California is expected to issue
an important ruling on who has jurisdiction over California's waters
to site potential LNG terminals. And, both the president in recent
speeches and Congress in pending energy legislation are getting
involved - at a time when natural gas prices are close to an all-
"This is a debate that needs to happen," says James Hoecker, who
was chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)
during the Clinton administration and is now a partner at the law
firm Vinson & Elkins in Washington. "It will be helpful that
Congress has decided to express what it believes national policy
ought to be."
In testimony before the Senate earlier this year, J. Mark
Robinson, a FERC official, said that "timely consideration of LNG
projects can be made impossible" because of the complex rules laid
down by multiple federal and state agencies. He asked that FERC be
made the lead agency for all environmental reviews and that state
agencies cooperate with FERC's timetable. If another federal or
state agency didn't make a decision within FERC's schedule, it would
result in the assumed waiver of that agency's authority.
The energy bill pending before the House does make FERC the lead
agency. The legislation also specifies that "FERC would be required
to actively consult with the states to consider state and local
safety priorities. …