FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

US Government Facilitated LNG Business Deals Before Federal Permits Issued

by

shutterstock_145344691

Emails and documents obtained by DeSmog reveal that the U.S. International Trade Administration has actively promoted and facilitated  business deals for the liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry and export terminal owners, even before some of the terminals have the federal regulatory agency permits needed to open for business.

This release of the documents coincides with the imminent opening of the first ever LNG export terminal in the U.S.hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) era, owned by Cheniere.

The documents came via an open records request filed by DeSmog with the Port of Lake Charles. The request centered around the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) the Port signed with the Panama Canal Authority in January 2015.

The records offer an inside glimpse of how — as the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) weigh environmental and energy policy concerns before handing out LNG export permits — other federal agencies have proceeded as if the permits are a fait accompli.

They also further raise the specter that, as some have highlighted, FERC and DOE merely serve as rubber-stamp regulatory agencies in service to powerful industrial interests. Further, they demonstrate how pivotal the proposed and nearly operational Panama Canal expansion project is for the LNG shipping industry moving forward.

Missionary Work

While the LNG export company-heavy Port of Lake Charles signed an MOU with the Panama Canal Authority on January 6, 2015, the emails date back to February 13, 2014. The MOU mentions LNG a few times throughout the text.

On that date, Jean Collins, export assistance specialist with the U.S. International Trade Administration working out of New Orleans, Louisiana, sent an email to Dan Loughney, Director of Marketing and Trade Development for the Port of Lake Charles, inviting him to an October 2014 trade mission in Panama hosted by the Louisiana District Export Council.

The Louisiana District Export Council is a sub-unit of the broader U.S. Commercial Service and U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC).

“The goal of the mission is to help participating Louisiana companies and organizations foster new business and partnerships in Panama,” explained Collins’ email. “Working in conjunction with the U.S. Commercial Service offices in New Orleans and Panama, the mission organizers will further develop relationships between C-100 member organizations.”

C-100, shorthand for Committee of 100 Louisiana, describes itself as “Louisiana’s Business Roundtable” and as a coalition of “the top CEOs of leading private and public companies in Louisiana and University presidents of Louisiana’s institutions of higher learning.”

Representatives from ExxonMobil, Shell, Cheniere and Louisiana Oil and Gas Association all serve as C-100 members.

LNG Mission

An April 3, 2014 email sent from the CEO of the C-100 — Michael Olivier, former Secretary of Economic Development for Louisiana’s former Democratic Party Governor Kathleen Blanco — explains that C-100 sent an “advance team” to Panama and “found a great interest from the Panama Canal [Authority] to enter into an MOU with the Port of Lake Charles” due to its proximity to Cheniere’s U.S. Gulf coast-based assets.

According to a news report published a couple days before the trade mission, one of the attendees was Greg Michaels, CEOand Chairman of the proposed SCT&E LNG export terminal.

“Michaels has a keen interest in the passage of LNG vessels through the canal and will hold meetings and discussions with Panamanian officials regarding such,” explains the article published by the business publication LNG Industry. “SCT&E LNGplans to ship LNG through the canal via large ocean going LNG vessels, thus making this Panama Trade Mission an important and timely event.”

LNG Industry also explained that the trade mission in Panama would help open doors to investors for Michaels.

“While visiting in Panama’s favorable business climate, Michaels will meet with prospective investors interested in the US$ 9.2 billion liquefaction project,” LNG Industry wrote. “His itinerary will also include meetings regarding potential electrical generation projects and LNG terminals in the region.”

SCT&E LNG had only sent in an LNG export application to the DOE five months prior to the trade mission for consideration and has yet to file an application with FERC.

Debriefing

Michael Olivier contacted Dan Loughney in an April 10 email to tell him that then-Panama Ambassador to the U.S., Mario Jaramillo, would soon visit Louisiana to help develop the agenda for the planned October trade mission to Panama. Jaramillo formerly served on the Board of Directors of Gas Natural Fenosa, a Spanish corporation that produces and distributes gas and electricity in Panama.

Panama’s current Ambassador to the U.S., Emanuel Gonzalez-Revilla, also formerly worked for the oil and gas industry as chairman for Melones Oil Terminal, Inc., “a full service fuel storage facility in the Pacific entrance of the Panama Canal; as well as Vice Chairman of Trader Tankers, Ltd., a premier barge and bunkering operation providing fuel to ships crossing The Panama Canal,” according to the Embassy of Panama in the U.S. website.

In the aftermath of the trade mission, C-100 published a debriefing of sorts, provided to DeSmog by Olivier. That debriefing explains that along with SCT&E LNG, representatives from the Australia-headquartered and Lake Charles-based MagnoliaLNG export facility proposal also attended the trade mission, as did a representative from Technology Associates, Inc, a company that manufactures LNG tanker fueling technology.

Rubber Stamp

Of course, there is always the question whether this is standard operating procedure and FERC and DOE just exist to provide a rubber stamp.

Both agencies denied a request for comment for this story, as did spokespeople for the International Trade Administration,U.S. Export Assistance Center and U.S. Commercial Service.

“There is no question that the FERC is a rubber-stamp for oil and gas,” said Margaret Flowers, an activist with the Beyond Extreme Energy coalition and U.S. Senate candidate for the Green Party in Maryland. “The FERC is fully funded by the permits it grants to industry. This is an incentive to permit projects, especially those such as LNG terminals, that lead to more permits for pipelines and compressor stations.”

Flowers thinks FERC needs a totally revamped vision going forward.

“The FERC needs to be totally remade so that it has a mission that takes critical issues such as the health and safety of communities and the climate crisis into account,” she explained.

This piece first appeared at DeSmogBlog.

Steve Horn is a Madison, WI-based freelance investigative journalist and Research Fellow at DeSmogBlog, where this piece first appeared.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Obama Said Hillary will Continue His Legacy and Indeed She Will!
Jeffrey St. Clair
She Stoops to Conquer: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Rob Urie
Long Live the Queen of Chaos
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Evolution of Capitalism, Escalation of Imperialism
Margot Kidder
My Fellow Americans: We Are Fools
Phillip Kim et al.
Open Letter to Bernie Sanders from Former Campaign Staffers
Ralph Nader
Hillary’s Convention Con
Lewis Evans
Executing Children Won’t Save the Tiger or the Rhino
Vijay Prashad
The Iraq War: a Story of Deceit
Chris Odinet
It Wasn’t Just the Baton Rouge Police Who Killed Alton Sterling
Brian Cloughley
Could Trump be Good for Peace?
Patrick Timmons
Racism, Freedom of Expression and the Prohibition of Guns at Universities in Texas
Gary Leupp
The Coming Crisis in U.S.-Turkey Relations
Pepe Escobar
Is War Inevitable in the South China Sea?
Norman Pollack
Clinton Incorruptible: An Ideological Contrivance
Robert Fantina
The Time for Third Parties is Now!
Andre Vltchek
Like Trump, Hitler Also Liked His “Small People”
Serge Halimi
Provoking Russia
David Rovics
The Republicans and Democrats Have Now Switched Places
Andrew Stewart
Countering The Nader Baiter Mythology
Rev. William Alberts
“Law and Order:” Code words for White Lives Matter Most
Ron Jacobs
Something Besides Politics for Summer’s End
David Swanson
It’s Not the Economy, Stupid
Erwan Castel
A Faith that Lifts Barricades: The Ukraine Government Bows and the Ultra-Nationalists are Furious
Steve Horn
Did Industry Ties Lead Democratic Party Platform Committee to Nix Fracking Ban?
Robert Fisk
How to Understand the Beheading of a French Priest
Colin Todhunter
Sugar-Coated Lies: How The Food Lobby Destroys Health In The EU
Franklin Lamb
“Don’t Cry For Us Syria … The Truth is We Shall Never Leave You!”
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
The Artistic Representation of War and Peace, Politics and the Global Crisis
Frederick B. Hudson
Well Fed, Bill?
Harvey Wasserman
NY Times Pushes Nukes While Claiming Renewables Fail to Fight Climate Change
Elliot Sperber
Pseudo-Democracy, Reparations, and Actual Democracy
Uri Avnery
The Orange Man: Trump and the Middle East
Marjorie Cohn
The Content of Trump’s Character
Missy Comley Beattie
Pick Your Poison
Kathleen Wallace
Feel the About Turn
Joseph Grosso
Serving The Grid: Urban Planning in New York
John Repp
Real Cooperation with Nations Is the Best Survival Tactic
Binoy Kampmark
The Scourge of Youth Detention: The Northern Territory, Torture, and Australia’s Detention Disease
Kim Nicolini
Rain the Color Blue with a Little Red In It
Cesar Chelala
Gang Violence Rages Across Central America
Tom H. Hastings
Africa/America
Robert Koehler
Slavery, War and Presidential Politics
Charles R. Larson
Review: B. George’s “The Death of Rex Ndongo”
July 28, 2016
Paul Street
Politician Speak at the DNC
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail