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Sen. Markey Asks President Obama to Review Safety of Yemeni LNG Imports to Mass.

Everett Terminal Receives Imports from Middle East Terrorist Haven; DOE Approved Another New Export Terminal for Valuable Resource

By The Maritime Executive 08-13-2013 02:22:00

Citing increased terrorism activity in  Yemen, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), member of the Foreign Relations Committee, asked President Barack Obama to direct the U.S. Coast Guard to review security procedures for shipments of natural gas from the Middle East nation delivered to a terminal in Everett, Massachusetts, adjacent to Boston. Senator Markey, a leading advocate of limiting liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports, also questioned the continued approval of LNG export terminals in light of fact that New England continues to rely heavily on imported natural gas, including from the terrorist haven of Yemen.

“The ongoing security threats in Yemen raise real questions about whether it is safe and reliable for tankers to continue delivering LNG shipments to the Port of Boston’s Everett LNG import terminal,” writes Senator Markey to President Obama. “I ask that you direct the United States Coast Guard to reexamine whether the security measures that are in place for tankers transporting LNG from Yemen into the United States are sufficient. I also ask that you direct the Department of Energy to reevaluate the implications of permitting exports of domestically produced natural gas on our ability to reduce U.S. imports of natural gas from unsafe or unstable regions such as Yemen.”

Over the last two weeks, the United States has closed its embassy in Yemen and conducted an escalating number of drone strikes against targets in the country. Reports indicate that a plot by al Qaeda to attack oil and gas infrastructure in Yemen was foiled.

The letter notes that the LNG import terminal in Everett has been the busiest LNG import facility in the United States for each of the past five years, with nearly 40 percent of all U.S. LNG imports arriving through the terminal during this period. In order to deliver gas to the Everett terminal, LNG tankers must travel through Boston Harbor and dock close to residential neighborhoods, an issue that has caused concern as the threat of terrorism has grown.  Compounding these concerns is the fact that the Everett terminal receives significant quantities of LNG from Yemen. Most recently, the Everett terminal received a shipment of 2.7 billion cubic feet (bcf) of LNG from Yemen in January.

Yet last week, even as terrorism concerns spiked in Yemen, the Department of Energy approved yet another export terminal in Louisiana to send more American natural gas abroad. It is the third such terminal approved in recent months. In the letter to the president, Senator Markey notes that it is his belief “that using our domestically produced natural gas here in America to reduce our dependence on foreign supplies from unstable and unsafe regions should take precedence over any plans to export U.S. natural gas abroad. The deteriorating security situation in Yemen only serves to highlight and heighten this imperative.”

The full text of the letter can be found below.

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August 12, 2013

 

The Honorable Barack Obama

President

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW

Washington, DC  20500

 

Dear President Obama:

I write regarding the ongoing security situation in Yemen and the potential impacts on New England energy supplies and security. The United States has closed its embassy in Yemen, ordered the evacuation of U.S. citizens and launched an escalating series of drone strikes against terrorist targets in the country. Recent reports also indicate that an al Qaeda plot against oil and gas facilities and ports in Yemen was foiled last week. The ongoing security situation in Yemen and the demonstrated intent of terrorist organizations to attack oil and gas facilities in that country raise concerns about the reliability and security of future shipments of natural gas from Yemen to New England.

The Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) import terminal in Everett, Massachusetts has been the busiest LNG import facility in the United States for each of the past five years, with nearly 40 percent of all U.S. LNG imports arriving through the port during this period. In order to deliver gas to the Everett terminal, LNG tankers must travel through Boston Harbor and dock close to residential neighborhoods, an issue that has caused concern as the threat of terrorism has grown.  Compounding these concerns is the fact that the Everett terminal receives significant quantities of LNG from Yemen. Most recently, the Everett terminal received a shipment of 2.7 billion cubic feet (bcf) of LNG from Yemen in January. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), more than 87 bcf of LNG from Yemen has been delivered to the Everett terminal since 2010, 14 percent of the total imports to the facility. There are also two deliveries of LNG from Yemen scheduled for the Everett facility in the fall and additional deliveries scheduled for 2014. Deliveries from Yemen have declined over the last year in part due to repeated terrorist attacks against key natural gas infrastructure in Yemen.      

It was reported last week that a major al Qaeda plot to once again attack oil and gas installations in Yemen was thwarted. A spokesman for Yemen’s prime minister was quoted as saying that this plot was “to attack strategic locations in Mukalla and Shabwa.”

natural gas export facility from which LNG shipments to New England depart is located in Balhaf in the province of Shabwa. While this most recent plot was disrupted, there have been numerous successful attempts to destroy infrastructure associated with natural gas production and exports in Yemen. There is also a history of possible terrorists arriving as stowaways on LNG tankers destined for Everett. Abdelghani Meskini, who was later convicted in the failed “millennium plot” to blow up Los Angeles International Airport, arrived in Everett as a stowaway on an Algerian LNG tanker in 1995.

As one the largest importers of LNG in the United States, New England is vulnerable to serious supply disruptions resulting from such attacks. LNG made up 30 percent of Massachusetts’ natural gas supply in 2011, the last year for which EIA has complete data.  The U.S. Coast Guard has put in place enhanced security measures for tankers transmitting LNG from Yemen to the United States. However, the ongoing security threats in Yemen raise real questions about whether it is safe and reliable for tankers to continue delivering LNG shipments to the Port of Boston’s Everett LNG import terminal.  

At the same time that the ongoing security situation in Yemen and the demonstrated intent of terrorist organizations to target natural gas infrastructure is threatening the availability of future supplies of LNG to New England, the Department of Energy (DOE) has begun approving applications to export domestically-produced natural gas abroad. Last week, DOE conditionally approved a third LNG export facility, in Lake Charles, Louisiana, for the ability to export up to 2 bcf of U.S. natural gas per day for 20 years. With these three export facilities, DOE has now approved 5.6 bcf per day of unrestricted natural gas export capacity – the equivalent of roughly 8 percent of annual U.S. consumption.

Last year, I wrote to then-Secretary of Energy Steven Chu expressing my belief that using our domestically produced natural gas here in America to reduce our dependence on foreign supplies from unstable and unsafe regions should take precedence over any plans to export U.S. natural gas abroad. The deteriorating security situation in Yemen only serves to highlight and heighten this imperative.

I ask that you direct the United States Coast Guard to reexamine whether the security measures that are in place for tankers transmitting LNG from Yemen into the United States are sufficient. I also ask that you direct the Department of Energy to reevaluate the implications of permitting exports of domestically produced natural gas on our ability to reduce U.S. imports of natural gas from unsafe or unstable regions such as Yemen.

I thank you for your attention to this matter. Should you have any questions, please have your staff contact Morgan Gray or Jonathan Phillips on my staff at (202) 224-2742.

Sincerely,

 

Edward J. Markey

United States Senator