Opponents of the project told local news media Friday that the final environmental review of the BHP Billiton proposed offshore liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving platform 14 miles off the Southern California coast should be rejected by federal and state authorities because of air quality, marine life and safety impacts. They use the 3,000-page final environmental impact statement and report (EIS/EIR) as the basis for rejection.

Environmentalists and local officials in the coastal towns of Oxnard and Malibu, CA, have strongly opposed the project since it was proposed four years ago, and they are urging Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has ultimate veto power, to reject the project.

"It still has many problems and should be denied, said Susan Jordan," director of the California Coastal Protection Network, as quoted in a Los Angeles Times report Saturday.

Citing extensive mitigation measures that will be taken, Renee Klimczak, president of BHP Billiton LNG International Inc., told the LA Times that the Cabrillo Port project "will be built to the highest public safety and environmental standards and will provide clean, safe, reliable energy to meet Ventura County's and California's ever-growing energy needs." Klimczak contends the company's proposed mitigation steps will actually improve the overall air quality in the region.

Air pollution has been a major issue raised by the onshore local officials and activist groups. And the federal Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) handling of the issue has raised subsequent concerns on Capitol Hill, alleging that Bush Administration appointees have lessened the requirements for air emission cleanup in the general area (see Daily GPI, Jan. 29).

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, in a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson charged that Washington, DC-based EPA officials overruled their San Francisco agency colleagues who had earlier insisted on more stringent air quality standards. Local area Rep. Lois Capps and Sen. Barbara Boxer, both California Democrats, last Friday also wrote Johnson demanding that he give a full accounting.

Opponents are also citing parts of the final EIS/EIR that outline safety risks from the LNG shipping and unloading processes, along with unmitigtable damage to local marine life. The EIS/EIR cites a number of what it called "significant and unavoidable offshore impacts" from the proposed operation of the Cabrillo Port facility, including public safety impacts.

The final report makes no recommendation for what state and federal decision-makers ultimately should do, but it provides data on the mitigation measures the project developers will have to take if they are given the permits to proceed with what would be California's first LNG receiving terminal.

Dated March 16, the EIS/EIR were posted Friday on a website for the $550 million, 800 MMcf/d facility (www.cabrilloport.ene.com). It is a joint product of the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) and the California State Lands Commission. A Coast Guard/MARAD hearing will be held April 4, the state lands commission hearing is scheduled for April 9, and the California Coastal Commission will review the project at its April 10-13 meetings.

The opening Coast Guard/MARAD hearing begins the 45-day countdown until California's governor is required to render a decision under the federal Deepwater Port Act.

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