January 29, 2008
Cummings calls for new LNG terminal security measures
Congressman Elijah E. Cummings, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, yesterday called for new action to enhance the security of LNG imports.
In a broad ranging joint address to Marine Log's Maritime & Port Security Conference and the Railway Security Forum , he drew attention to "a particular concern of mine and of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation." the issue of providing adequate security around liquefied natural gas terminals and, in fact, around all hazardous product terminals on the water.
He noted that a study released by the GAO in an unclassified form in December of last year found that development of LNG terminals is moving forward before all measures are in place to ensure the adequate security and safety of these terminals.
Daily ship-based imports of LNG now average about 1.7 billion cubic feet -- or the equivalent of two LNG tankers visiting a U.S. port every three days.
However, the Energy Information Administration estimates that imports of LNG will increase by more than 400% by 2015--a mere 7 years from now.
There are currently five terminals in the United States that receive shipments of LNG. According to the GAO, eleven new on-shore LNG terminals have now been approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission--and literally dozens more are in some stage of the permitting process.
"Together, these numbers should indicate that LNG security should to be an important priority of our security efforts," said Congressman Cummings. "Unfortunately, it has not been the priority it needs to be."
"In some instances, the Coast Guard has required LNG terminals to hire local law enforcement to provide some of the security around LNG tankers while they are unloading.
"While I have the highest respect for our police and other first responders, frankly, they have been the first to admit in testimony to our Subcommittee at the two hearings we convened on LNG security that they do not have the resources and training to take on this type of responsibility.
"These types of arrangements --which in my opinion simply are not optimal-- are being made because the Coast Guard does not have the resources it needs to provide these security services while continuing all of its other vital missions.
"This is most clearly confirmed in the waterway suitability assessment for the proposed Broadwater terminal in New York, in which the Coast Guard reported it would need 11 new boats to provide adequate security.
"Despite the obvious red flags that this situation should raise, FERC was unable to explain what impact the lack of Coast Guard resources would have on a pending terminal application."
Congressman Cummings noted that GAO found that at several ports, a lack of resources has hindered Coast Guard units from meeting the Coast Guard’s own requirements for security measures around LNG and other hazardous materials product tankers.
The GAO emphasized that the Coast Guard needs additional resources to meet security requirements, but noted that there is also need for a national plan that takes a comprehensive look at the Coast Guard’s nationwide resource needs and identifies milestones and funding requirements to meet these needs. Further, the GAO recommends development of a national resource allocation plan to meet the security requirements created by the proposed expansion of LNG facilities and shipments.
"These are recommendations that I fully support," said Congressman Cummings. "However, as I argued earlier this year, we also need a national policy on terminal sitings."
"Right now," he said, "we have a situation in which incentives have been created to promote both off-shore and on-shore sitings--and to pursue a host of different objectives through these incentives."
"If we have decided to increase the number of terminal sitings, we need a national policy that addresses all of the issues -- particularly the security considerations – that these sitings raise," said the Congressman.
"We should never be in a situation in which we are approving new projects without making adequate provision for the security of these projects," said the Congressman. All federal agencies involved in this process should work together to achieve what should be their common objectives.
"We cannot have a situation," said the Congressman, "in which the Coast Guard is passing off its responsibilities to agencies that are not prepared to meet them."
"For that reason," he explained, "I included in the 2007 Coast Guard Reauthorization Act, H.R. 2830, a provision that would prohibit the Coast Guard from approving a facility security plan for an LNG terminal until the service has certified that the Coast Guard sector in which the terminal is located has all of the assets it needs to provide security around the terminal and around LNG tankers serving the terminals when they are traveling in Coast Guard-imposed security zones."
"I strongly believe that in the absence of national policies on LNG, this is a reasonable and frankly overdue requirement," he said.