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Study Finds Impact from LNG Projects on Gulf of Mexico Marine Life to be Minimal

The Center for Liquefied Natural Gas (CLNG) said new data shows the actual impact of offshore liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects on marine life in the Gulf of Mexico will be "substantially less" than originally identified by environmental analyses. CLNG arrived at its findings following an independent ecological review of the analyses.

CLNG commissioned Exponent Inc. to undertake an independent evaluation of the technical work that has been done to date in assessing environmental impacts from use of seawater in open loop vaporization (OLV) systems proposed in LNG terminals in the Gulf. The primary environmental question associated with the use of OLV technology is the potential for impact on fish eggs and larvae into seawater intakes.

While CLNG pointed out that the environmental impact statements (EIS) developed by the United States Coast Guard for proposed offshore LNG developments conclude that the impact on fisheries would be minor, some groups have disputed the Coast Guard's findings, and others have raised concern about cumulative impacts if several offshore LNG terminals are built in the same region.

"Our findings indicate that the actual impacts of offshore LNG development, and in particular the use of OLV systems, on fish populations is expected to be substantially less than the minimal impacts already predicted in the EIS," said Paul Boehm, vice president of environmental services for Exponent. "The EIS conclusions that impacts will be minor are indeed correct, and can be used for licensing decisions."

Exponent's review found the EIS assessments contained numerous conservative assumptions that "significantly overestimate the potential for adverse impacts" from offshore LNG projects. Exponent said that after adjusting the fish equivalent methodology used in the EIS with a more scientifically appropriate approach consistent with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) approach for stock assessments, estimates of impacts were significantly lowered.

For example, Exponent said the impact of the Gulf Landing LNG project is estimated to be equivalent to the loss of eight mature female redfish. Even though cumulative impacts were insignificant in the EIS assessments, using the more rigorous egg equivalent method yields even smaller cumulative impacts from LNG projects in the Gulf region.

"The Exponent report confirms and strengthens CLNG's position on the acceptability of the use of OLV, a proven and environmentally sound technology used throughout the world," said Bill Cooper, executive director, CLNG. "We've learned that the current methodology uses very conservative assumptions that overstate the impacts. This is an important finding that the effects will be much smaller than initially reported."

More information on the Exponent study can be found at www.lngfacts.org. CLNG is a coalition of LNG producers, shippers, terminal operators and developers, energy trade associations and natural gas consumers. Its goal is to enhance public education and understanding about LNG by serving as a clearinghouse for LNG information.

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