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Geological Survey Says LNG Project Sited in Quake-Prone Area

The pipeline facilities associated with a liquefied natural gas (LNG) deepwater port facility off the California coast in Santa Monica Bay face a medium-to-high probability of damage from earthquakes or other hazards in the next three decades, according to a report by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

"The probability of a damaging earthquake -- considered here as a magnitude 6.5 or greater [on the Richter scale] -- in the next 30 years within about 30 miles of the proposed pipeline ranges from 16% at the pipeline's offshore end to 48% where it nears land," the USGS said in its nearly 70-page report.

"Earthquakes of this magnitude are capable of producing strong shaking, surface fault offsets, liquefaction phenomena, landslides, underwater turbidity currents and debris flow avalanches and tsunamis."

The project in question is Woodside Natural Gas Inc.'s proposed OceanWay Security Energy deepwater port, which would be located on the floor of the southern Santa Monica Basin in 3,000 feet of water, about 23 miles off the Palos Verdes Peninsula. The deepwater port would be connected by 35 miles of twin 24-inch diameter pipelines and would come ashore near Los Angeles International Airport.

The USGS said it does not make any recommendation for or against the OceanWay project. Instead, its job is to provide "accurate and up-to-date geologic information" to public policy officials involved in the approval process and to engineers involved in the design process if the project moves forward.

As part of Woodside's deepwater port application filed with the U.S. Maritime Administration in 2007, geoscience consulting firm Fugro West Inc. prepared a report identifying the geologic hazards in the areas of the proposed port and pipeline facilities. This was reviewed by 27 scientists from the USGS and California Geological Survey, who concluded that the report by California-based Fugro "represents most of the geologic hazards in the project areas."

However, "we make recommendations for more detailed assessment of hazards posed by tsunamis and sediment transport events [that could affect the structure of the pipelines] because we believe that the impact of such events may be underrepresented" in the Fugro report, the USGS said.

In March Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) asked the USGS to identify the geologic hazards that should be considered during the approval process for the port and pipeline facilities.

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