Congressman Elijah E. Cummings, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, convened the Subcommittee at the Ceremonial Courtroom at the University of Maryland School of Law in Baltimore to examine the proposed development of a liquid natural gas (LNG) terminal at Sparrow's Point in the Port of Baltimore.
Witnesses included Senator Barbara A. Mikulski, Governor Martin O'Malley, Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith, as well as representatives of the United States Coast Guard, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and the AES Sparrow's Point project, as well as two residents of the Sparrow's Point neighborhood.
Following the hearing, Chairman Cummings released the following statement.
"Today's hearing provided a thorough examination not only of the Sparrow's Point project, but of the many repercussions of our nation's decision to build new liquid natural gas (LNG) terminals.
"Perhaps no single federal agency is more affected by this decision than the United States Coast Guard, which is responsible for conducting the waterway suitability assessments that are part of the reviews conducted before permits for new terminals are issued. The Coast Guard is also responsible for providing waterside security around LNG terminals once
they are built and for ensuring the security and safety of LNG tankers as they move past local communities on their way to the terminals.
"As our nation builds new terminals
, we are by extension expanding commitments of Coast Guard resources and personnel that the Coast Guard may not be able to adequately balance against
their growing homeland security responsibilities and their traditional search and rescue and environmental protection missions.
"Our hearing today explored the widening gaps between the extent of the missions that the Coast Guard is called upon to perform and the budgets and resources currently available to it. Unfortunately, at Maryland's Cove Point LNG terminal
, the Coast Guard is apparently seeking to fill these gaps by calling upon local law enforcement to provide some waterside security when LNG tankers are moored at that facility.
"While I have every respect for the tremendous job that local law enforcement does in protecting our communities, local police departments and sheriffs' offices do not have the level of training or legal authority that the Coast Guard does to conduct water-based security missions and interventions and they are an inadequate substitute to stand in place of the Coast Guard between local communities and the threats that LNG tankers and terminals can bring to them.
"Given the Coast Guard's moves to pass some security responsibilities to the operators of LNG terminals, I was particularly troubled by the Coast Guard's lack of clarity regarding the degree to which local law enforcement in Baltimore County may be called upon to provide security for the proposed Sparrow's Point project - particularly as we learned from the testimony of County Executive James T. Smith today that the County is not adequately prepared to play such a role.
"I do not believe that Baltimore is the most suitable location for a new LNG terminal
. There is no reason to place these terminals - which are obvious terror targets - in highly populated areas.
"Further, the compelling testimony of witnesses from the local Sparrow's Point community also forcefully conveyed the concerns about environmental justice that the choice of this location must raise.
"The citizens of Sparrow's Point and of the entire city of Baltimore are the people who will have to live with what this facility brings to our community long after FERC has moved on to the next project. I disagreed in 2005 with the actions taken by the Republican-controlled Congress and the Bush Administration to limit the role of State and local governments in regulating LNG terminal sitings - and with this proposed project, we see the consequences of those actions.
"All parties involved in evaluating Sparrow's Point must adhere strictly to all applicable laws and regulations. FERC, the Coast Guard, and the other cooperating agencies in this process will be held accountable not only by Congress but by the local community for the fairness and thoroughness of their evaluation process - and I believe that State and local officials must be intimately involved with every step of that process.
"Frankly, I am also troubled that the Coast Guard itself testified that not all of the regulations it implements regarding new on-shore LNG terminal sitings have been updated to respond to the changed realities of the post 9-11 world. This speaks not only to the strains on the Coast Guard but to the fact that we might be moving ahead with the siting of additional terminals before all of the elements are in place to ensure their security and safety.
"I will convene another hearing of the Subcommittee on May 7 to examine a proposed LNG terminal in Long Island Sound. I will also look forward to the release of the Waterway Suitability Report regarding the Sparrow's Point project to learn the specific security measures that will be put in place there - and whether the Coast Guard can meet all of the security needs of that proposed terminal."