What: All Issues : Government Checks on Corporate Power : Oil & Gas Industry : CLEAN Energy Act (H.R. 6), Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) amendment to give states a greater say as to whether a liquefied natural gas terminal would be located in their boundaries/On adoption of the amendment (2007 senate Roll Call 216)
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CLEAN Energy Act (H.R. 6), Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) amendment to give states a greater say as to whether a liquefied natural gas terminal would be located in their boundaries/On adoption of the amendment
senate Roll Call 216     Jun 19, 2007
Progressive Position:
Yea
Progressive Result:
Loss

This vote was on an amendment to legislation aiming to reduce the country's dependence on fossil fuels that would have expanded the role state governors could have played in determining whether a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal would be located in their states.

Proposed by Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), the measure would have expanded the definition of "affected state" for the federal permitting process to determine where LNG terminals are located to include states that would have been directly connected to the terminal by a pipeline, been within 15 miles of the terminal or have the same or greater risk of damage to the coastal environment as the state in which the terminal would be located.

The bill to which Cardin was seeking to amend would aim to reduce the country's reliance on fossil fuels by increasing fuel-economy standards for vehicles and mandating the use of 15 billion gallons of ethanol annually by 2015. The underlying bill would also encourage research on carbon-sequestration (keeping carbon dioxide from escaping into the atmosphere and thus preventing it from contributing to climate change), mandate that the federal government get 15 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2015 and require the State Department to pursue alliances with both energy-consuming and energy-producing nations.

Speaking in favor of the amendment Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said that while the country is grappling with its growing energy needs, it must take into account other important concerns and avoid "depleting our natural resources, threatening our environment or endangering our people."

Over 40 LNG terminals are currently proposed, he said, many of which are planned for heavily populated or environmentally sensitive areas. "Unfortunately, in their haste to expand this market, the LNG industry and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission have dismissed the risks this poses to public safety and the environment," Whitehouse said.

Cardin said his amendment would fix this problem by simply allowing affected states to have a "say as to whether these kinds of facilities should be built within their boundaries and, if so, the exact location."

"It is the right way for federalism to work," Cardin continued. "We should take advantage of each state's unique understanding of the issues it faces and make sure that expertise is considered in a meaningful way."

Critics, such as Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), countered that the country has ever-increasing demands for natural gas over the next decades, and LNG is one way to meet those demands. "It is terribly important for our country that we have this available when we need it, and if the price is right that we be able to locate sites that serve the United States," Domenici said.

Domenici continued that the law currently on the books allows for state involvement but doesn't give the governor veto power over the site, which he said Cardin's proposal effectively would.

"We did that, and we did other things, all in the interest of what we knew was true; that you ultimately had to let energy sources and energy grids and energy plants - you had to let the federal government have the last say, especially where arbitrariness on the part of the local unit was entering the picture and they wanted their way, their way under all circumstances," Domenici added.

Cardin said that his amendment simply supported the basic tenants of federalism and allowed the state and federal government to "truly become energy independent for the right reasons."

With significant opposition from Republicans, Cardin's proposal was defeated. Sixteen Democrats joined all but five Republicans in voting against it. The 30 Democratic supporters included the most progressive in the Senate. Thus, on a vote of 37 to 56, a proposal to allow states greater say as to whether a liquefied natural gas terminal would be located within their borders was defeated, and legislation aiming to reduce the country's dependence on fossil fuels proceeded without the provision.

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