Contrary to perceptions, liquefied natural gas (LNG) proponents are still active in California, and on the eve of a deadline for the state's governor weighing in on an offshore terminal proposal, activity continues to attempt what some critics consider politically impossible -- siting an LNG terminal somewhere along the Southern California coast. The longest-running proposal to site a terminal in Long Beach harbor is still alive as are four separate offshore terminal proposals.

Jointly sponsored by units of Mitsubishi and ConocoPhillips, the Sound Energy Solutions (SES) proposed terminal at Long Beach hopes to have its legal appeals resolved in the next two months, its representatives are continuing discussions with local government and community officials, and it is running a series of advertisements in the local Long Beach Press-Telegram urging that the aborted environmental impact review (EIR) process be completed on SES's proposed $800 million, 1 Bcf/d receiving terminal.

Last February, SES asked a state Superior Court in Los Angeles County to force the port to complete the job it took on jointly with FERC more than three years ago. It filed a writ of mandate asking the court to order the harbor commissioners to complete the job (see Daily GPI, Feb. 12).

"We feel pretty good right now," said Tom Giles SES's COO for the project. "Another newspaper ad will appear Wednesday with a lot of supporters saying, 'Finish the EIR,' so I think that and Monday's ad are pretty impressive." He still expects the environmental review and a final EIR/EIS (environmental impact statement) to be completed, and that it will not require any major changes in SES's current plans for receiving and processing LNG.

The combined ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, which together make up the nation's busiest harbor and the world's third busiest, are both interested in using LNG in port operations to begin cutting into a severe air pollution problem for the growing amounts of diesel burned in harbor equipment and vehicles and the tens of thousands of trucks hauling away cargo from the ports daily.

Regarding the still-pending offshore proposals, the federal Deepwater Port Act gives California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger until Monday (May 21) to decide whether to approve or reject an LNG terminal proposal by the Australian resource giant, BHP Billiton. If he approves it (overruling his own state coastal panel), approves it with conditions, or fails to act, the state part of the process will be construed as an approval, and then the federal U.S. Maritime Administration gives the final yea-or-nay by early July (see Daily GPI, April 16). A press aide to the governor earlier in the month indicated Schwarzenegger likely will make an announcement by Friday (May 18).

To date, after separate local public hearings along the Southern California coast the first two weeks of April, the U.S. Coast Guard has endorsed the 3,000-page EIS and report, even though it cites nearly two dozen environmental and safety problems. The California Lands Commission and California Coastal Commission separately rejected the environmental review, and the coastal panel strongly questioned the need for the project.

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