The U.S. Coast Guard earlier this month extended the comment period on Australian-based Woodside Natural Gas Co.'s proposed OceanWay liquefied natural gas (LNG) project offshore from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The move comes after an initial public meeting near the airport Sept. 26 to introduce the start of the joint federal-city environmental review process.

Some technical changes in the electronic federal docket management system at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) prompted the Coast Guard to push back the deadline for the written comments for a second time to Oct. 31. It had been set for Monday (Oct. 15).

The federal docket system at DOT is used for public access to Woodside's applications and federal notices on its plans to send LNG from regasification ships connected to a submerged docking buoy and underwater pipeline to shore for interconnection with the Southern California Gas Co. backbone transmission system in the Los Angeles Basin.

The OceanWay project is banking on lower environmental and safety risks and a higher level of community support for its project. So far the backers for the project have gained support from local organized labor and Los Angeles business organizations.

Following the Sept. 26, open house and scoping hearing conducted by the Coast Guard, the federal Maritime Administration (MARAD) and the City of Los Angeles, Woodside Natural Gas President Steve Larson called the sessions a "success" because community representatives had an opportunity to comment on the proposed project, and the company and government representatives were able to respond.

OceanWay cited a former Los Angeles Airport Commission member and the head of the local neighborhood council near LAX as supporting the OceanWay project. Mike Arias, president of the Westchester/Playa del Rey council, lauded Woodside for putting "community interest and concerns at the forefront."

The environmental impact statement/environmental impact report (EIS/EIR) for OceanWay will now be prepared by MARAD and the Coast Guard with the City of Los Angeles being what is designated as a "cooperating agency" in the review.

"The EIS/EIR will meet the requirements of both the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)," the Coast Guard said in extending the comment deadline.

There was opposition from Malibu, Port Hueneme and Oxnard, CA, at the scoping meeting, and in September the "No LNG Community Alliance of Ventura County" turned out at the Ventura Harbor 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles to raise questions about how another offshore LNG proposal by NorthernStar Natural Gas at an existing oil platform 20 miles offshore would impact everything from air quality to global warming.

Undaunted, Larson said Woodside has been talking with the environmental groups for a long time and listening to them, and even though their opposition may lengthen the permitting process, Woodside's corporate backers in Australia are willing to see this project through for the long haul. They are convinced there is a market in California for their North Shelf gas, and believe they have the best and least environmentally intrusive way to get it here.

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