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LNG Trade Group Clarifies Revised EIR on CA Offshore Project

Seeking to avoid misinterpretations of the revised draft environmental impact report (EIR) for the BHP Billiton proposed offshore terminal along the Southern California coast, the Washington, DC-based LNG industry information clearinghouse, Center for Liquefied Natural Gas (CLNG) attempted Thursday to clarify the document and "put it into appropriate context." A Houston-based BHP Billiton spokesperson said the Australian-based proponents did not ask the CLNG to intervene.

The California State Lands Commission last March released the revised draft EIR and held a series of local public hearings April 17-19, recirculating a reworked version of what had been released in October 2004, concluding that the Billiton Cabrillo Port LNG Deepwater project 22 miles off the coast near Oxnard, CA and 24-inch diameter undersea gas pipeline to bring supplies onshore would not harm Oxnard or nearby counties.

Nevertheless, CLNG issued a statement to news media Thursday saying it is "concerned that the draft EIR puts forth highly improbable 'worst case' scenarios and consequence analyses that grossly overstate the risks" of the project, attributing the statement to the center's executive director, Bill Cooper. "As a result, we believe the draft EIR is vulnerable to mischaracterization and misinterpretation. The improbable worst-case scenarios lead to overestimates of the resulting consequences."

The center is concerned that what it called "highly improbable scenarios" will be used to develop design criteria for LNG facilities, something that would drive up the costs of the projects. CLNG is a coalition of 60 LNG producers, shippers, terminal operators and developers, energy trade associations and large natural gas users, with the goal of increasing "public education and understanding" about LNG by providing an information clearinghouse function.

CLNG's Cooper did note in the group's prepared news announcement that the state lands commission had carried out a "thorough" and comprehensive EIR process spanning three years. "Public hearings on the draft EIR have also provided an opportunity for the public to learn more about the role of LNG in helping secure the nation's energy future, as well as all that is being done to safely transport and store LNG," the CLNG announcement said.

Cooper's prepared statement tried to stress that the United States needs more natural gas and it can only get it through stepped up LNG imports. "LNG transport is very safe and has been for decades, and any minimal or manageable risks should not become an emotional barrier," he said.

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