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CA Lands Commission Releases Draft EIR, Sets Hearings on Billiton LNG Project

The lead state agency, the California Lands Commission, Tuesday released a revised draft environmental impact report (EIR) and set three hearings next month on Australian resources giant BHP Billiton's proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving terminal 22 miles off the Southern California coast from Oxnard, CA. Hearings will be held in three separate cities April 17-19.

The draft EIR, which was originally circulated in October 2004, is being recirculated after Billiton revised key elements of the project following state commission and company reviews of the comments on the original draft EIR.

Known as the Cabrillo Port LNG Deepwater project, the revised draft EIR concludes that the proposed offshore receiving terminal and connecting 24-inch diameter undersea natural gas pipeline to bring the fuel to shore as a vapor would not harm Oxnard or nearby counties based on the proposed safety mitigation measures. Nevertheless, the voluminous document, with a 98-page executive summary, lists 19 areas that it discusses as "potential significant impacts on the environment," such as public safety, marine traffic and air quality.

Among the major changes in the 1 Bcf/d LNG project are a larger floating storage and regasification platform offshore; new routes for offshore and onshore gas pipelines; gas odorization as part of the offshore terminal operations; greater public safety measures and studies; and a commitment by Billiton to achieve more specific air emission reductions.

"Specific mitigation measures that are feasible were identified as part of the environmental analysis," the draft EIR states. "When implemented, these measures would reduce potential adverse impact of project construction and operation to a level below the significance criteria."

In the section on public safety, the draft EIR states that potential release of LNG due to operational or natural causes at the floating facility or tanker ship were assessed. "Sandia [National Laboratories in New Mexico] concurred that such incidents would not be expected to affect more than a single LNG tank, and the consequences of such an LNG release would not affect the general public."

The draft EIR said a "reasonable range of alternatives" to the offshore site were examined in according with federal and California environmental quality laws.

Hearings to gain more oral and written comments on the revised draft EIR will be in Santa Clarita, CA (where one of the proposed interconnecting pipelines into the Southern California Gas Co. transmission system will terminate about 40 miles north of Los Angeles), April 17; in Malibu, the coastal city directly east of Oxnard, April 18; and in Oxnard (afternoon and evening hearings), April 19.

Since BHP Billiton originally filed an application to the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Maritime Administration in September 2003, the city councils in Oxnard and Malibu have expressed opposition to the two original Southern California offshore LNG terminal proposals, including Billiton's.

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