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AL Governor Wants Safety Study Before ExxonMobil Builds LNG Plant

AL Governor Wants Safety Study Before ExxonMobil Builds LNG Plant

Alabama Gov. Robert Riley this week warned FERC and a state port authority that he would block the sale of state-owned land outside of Mobile, AL, to ExxonMobil Corp. to site a liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal unless the agency first conducts an independent, site-specific study of the potential hazards facing the public.

In a letter Wednesday to Chairman Pat Wood, Riley wrote that without such a study being "completed and considered" first, he had "no choice but to object to the issuance of necessary permits" by FERC for the proposed ExxonMobil LNG terminal, and would halt the sale of state-owned submerged lands to the company. Riley said the study should consider the "most credible worst-case scenario."

He also called on the Commission to seek input from the U.S. Coast Guard on the "potential threats posed by this facility or by the transport of LNG through Mobile Bay." Only then "can FERC make an informed decision and can all parties concerned be apprised of the actual possible outcomes of an accident or terrorist attack," Riley said.

This will "provide me with critical information to calculate the necessary coordination of security and rescue response measures needed for such a facility." the governor noted. Absent this "credible, reliable information, I cannot support the construction of such a facility in this state, and I trust FERC will not either."

Riley also fired off a letter to the Alabama State Port Authority, which in October approved a $38 million, three-year land option for ExxonMobil to purchase 200 acres on the outskirts of Mobile as a possible site for its proposed LNG receiving terminal. This action allowed the company to begin seeking federal permits to build the LNG facility at what is known as the Navy Homeport site. ExxonMobil has not filed an application at the Commission yet.

"By this letter, you are advised that I have always opposed the sale of the Navy Homeport site and adjacent submerged lands to ExxonMobil Corp. for use as a liquefied natural gas facility, without there first being an individualized, independent, site-specific safety study performed," Riley wrote to Will Givhan, an outside attorney for the Port Authority.

"I will not consent to the sale of the [adjacent] submerged land nor issue the patent required for such a transfer to occur until an independent safety study has been completed and evaluated." Unlike the Navy Homeport site, the submerged lands are not subject to the control of the Port Authority and require the governor's approval for transfer to the company, Riley said.

The proposed Mobile facility, which would be able to handle a minimum of 1 Bcf/d, is one of several that ExxonMobil is eyeing in the U.S. to process imports from Qatar. The company last October entered into a $12 billion deal to bring LNG into the United States from Qatar over a 25-year period. The company announced Thursday a proposal for a new LNG receiving terminal, the second one on the Texas coast (see related story, this issue).

ExxonMobil's plans have created a hotbed of controversy throughout Alabama. Residents living near the proposed ExxonMobil LNG site have filed a lawsuit to block the project. A Mobile County Circuit said he will rule next week on the Port Authority's request to dismiss the legal action.

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