WASHINGTON -- New England lawmakers are calling for a new regional approach to siting liquefied natural gas facilities, urging federal regulators to adopt a ''rational process" for approving new projects.
The congressmen, who are seeking a meeting with the Department of Energy secretary, Samuel Bodman, said yesterday that the current project-by-project review of proposed LNG facilities is not good for the region.
''We believe that this ad hoc approach is unsuitable for New England and that a more comprehensive and regional approach is required," wrote the lawmakers in a letter to Bodman.
Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri voiced support for a regional approach.
''It makes more sense than the piecemeal process in use today," Romney spokeswoman Julie Teer said. ''Governor Romney looks forward to working with the entire New England delegation on a more rational permitting process."
Energy Department officials said they will be in Boston on March 10 for a public meeting. A spokesman said Bodman agrees that a regional approach is best and that's why he has planned meetings between officials and local citizens across the country.
''We are looking forward to the discussion," Craig Stevens said. ''We want to make sure that all parties are at the table as we move forward."
Bruce Berman, spokesman for Save the Harbor/Save the Bay, a Massachusetts environmental advocacy group, said federal regulators should consider all 17 LNG proposals, stretching from New Jersey to Canada, in light of the region's overall energy needs.
''We think it makes perfect sense to look at them as a group," said Berman, whose group is leading a coalition against a proposed LNG terminal on Boston Harbor's Outer Brewster Island. ''No one thinks we need all 17 projects."
Officials at Weaver's Cove Energy, whose proposed terminal in Fall River, Mass., has won approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, were skeptical about the call by lawmakers for a regional approach.
''Frankly, it is unclear how this regional process would work and what would make it superior to the process we have today, which seems to work very well elsewhere in the country," said Weaver's Cove spokeswoman Marcia MacClary.
Weaver's Cove opponents asked FERC yesterday to ''reopen the proceedings" and put its authorization for the project on hold in light of the company's new plan to use smaller LNG tanker ships to reach the facility.