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New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, who is facing re-election on Tuesday, told CBS News’ Face the Nation over the weekend that the Jones Act is preventing U.S. natural gas from reaching New England and contributing to high natural gas prices heading into winter, triggering prompt backlash from American maritime industry interests.
His comments came after show host Margaret Brennan pushed back against Governor Sununu claim that the Biden Administration is preventing natural production to prevent shortages this winter. “There’s record [natural gas production] now, as you know,” said Brennan.
“Yes and because of the Jones Act, this antiquated 100-year-old union-driven policy that President Biden refuses to get rid of, we have very minimal opportunity to bring natural from even parts of our own country and land it right here in New England. So it’s not just New Hampshire, it’s Massachusetts, it’s Maine,” exclaimed Governor Sununu.
Governor Sununu was one of six New England governors who sent a letter to Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm in July asking for suspension of the Jones Act, which requires cargo shipped between two U.S. ports is transported on American owned, operated and built ships. The request was to allow domestic gas to be shipped to New England on foreign ships amid a tight natural gas market and high energy prices expected this winter. Secretary Granholm then met with the governors in September.
“It is disappointing Governor Sununu blamed the Jones Act for the consequences of poor energy supply policy decisions made by New Hampshire – and New England governors in general – over the past decade,” Ku’uhaku Park, President, American Maritime Partnership, which advocates on behalf of the domestic maritime industry. “New England has refused for years the consistent and more affordable delivery of energy through pipelines, and they are seeing their perennial gamble on cheap foreign energy spot markets not go their way this year. Gov. Sununu’s comments demonstrate either a lack of understanding of how energy markets work or a blatant attempt to scapegoat the American Maritime industry, which adds more than $236 million annually to his state’s economy, including $75.3 million in worker income.”
After the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas folded to pressure and waived the Jones Act for diesel and LNG cargoes to Puerto Rico for hurricane relief efforts, many in the maritime industry will be closely watching New England’s power supply this winter as the mercury drops. Following Secretary Mayorkas’ decision, perhaps Jones Act opponents see an easy target in the Biden Administration?
But others, including Overseas Shipholding Group CEO Sam Norton, consider these types of “targeted” Jones Act waivers as a form of misguided “disaster arbitrage”that only benefits profit-minded energy traders—not a solution to a problem.
“If LNG is selling in Europe at a price five times that available in the Gulf of Mexico, any available LNG this winter will head to Europe – on tankers currently charging $500,000 per day – unless New England buyers match the price paid in Europe. There will be no hometown discount,” Mr. Norton wrote in a recent LinkedIn post.
Skip to 2:30 in the video below to see Governor Sununu’s comments on the Jones Act:
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