Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Maryland LNG case could have wider impacts

AES Corporation, a company that wants to build a LNG terminal in Bethlehem Steel's former shipyard in Baltimore, MD will be in federal district court today challenging Baltimore County's coastal zoning plan which was recently amended to prohibit LNG plants and other facilities, such as oil refineries, from being located in environmentally sensitive coastal areas.

The case is being closely watched for impacts in other jurisdictions, like New Jersey, where similar prohibitions have been enacted or are contemplated.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

When an energy company and Baltimore County government square off in a federal appeals court today, the arguments might have widespread interest beyond whether a liquefied natural gas terminal should be built on Sparrows Point.

According to some experts, energy companies and local governments nationwide are interested in how successful Baltimore County is at using a federally and state-mandated program designed to protect coastal areas to defeat the controversial LNG project.

"I think folks will be watching to see if this can be used as a template to oppose any type of project," said Bill Cooper, president of the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas, a Washington-based trade association.

The county's modified coastal zone management plan has withstood one court challenge. But lawyers for Baltimore County and AES Corp., the company that wants to build the LNG plant, will present their arguments this morning to a panel of judges at the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.

Donald Santa, a former member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and president of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, agreed that both companies and local governments will be monitoring the outcome of the federal appeal.

"If Baltimore County were to prevail, it would invite local jurisdictions to enact similar statutes," Santa said. "That could frustrate the ability to locate LNG facilities in any locality."

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