Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Supreme Court Will Not Hear Balto. County LNG Challenge

The U.S. Supreme Court on October 6 refused to hear an appeal from Baltimore County challenging a liquefied natural gas facility planned for the former Bethlehem Steel shipyard that is currently owned by the Russian firm Severstal. The Supreme Court’s decision was the latest in a long-running legal battle over the proposed LNG facility at Sparrows Point.

Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. submitted the petition to the Supreme Court on Aug. 15 after an earlier decision by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the county’s modification of zoning regulations was a violation of the Natural Gas Act. Baltimore County updated its Coastal Zone Management plan in 2007, changing it so that LNG plants could not be sited near coastal areas. That zoning change was upheld by U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland Judge Richard D. Bennett. AES, in turn, appealed that decision to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That court sided with the energy company and said the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had exclusive authority over the placement of LNG terminals. FERC’s five-member panel is expected to vote on the project in November, but its staff has given the project provisional approval.

According to AES’ preliminary plans for the project, it will include a marine receiving terminal, three 160,000-cubic-meter full containment storage tanks, as well as facilities to offload cargo. When completed, the facility is designed to vaporize 1.5 billion cubic feet of LNG daily back to its gaseous state. The facility can be expanded to vaporize 2.25 billion cubic feet per day. It will also include an 88-mile pipeline th at would pump the gas to Pennsylvania. The company has said it could begin construction as early as this year, with operations coming online in late 2010.

AAEA does not have a position on the project but is working with community representatives from Turner Station on a mitigation strategy. [FERC Testimony] (Maryland Daily Record, 10/6/08)

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