Organized opposition is hardening toward a liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving terminal proposed offshore Oxnard, CA. Australian resources giant BHP Billiton is the target of ire for allegedly lobbying its way around more stringent environmental restrictions, according to a report over the Labor Day weekend in the Los Angeles Times.

At issue is a draft air pollution permit from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Political muscle was supposedly used by BHP Billiton to gain an exemption through a Bush administration task force established five years ago to accelerate permitting on critical new energy projects in the county. As a result, critics are saying that BHP Billiton LNG International’s proposal to convert an idle offshore oil platform 14 miles out to sea from Oxnard into a LNG receiving terminal is getting inadequate environmental review, the LA Times reported.

The organized opposition in Oxnard and Malibu is disputing BHP’s claims that there will be no environmental impacts onshore from its proposed facility that could process up to 1.5 Bcf/d of LNG supplies. A veteran California environmental lobbyist was quoted in the Times‘ report as saying he had never seen the amount of “lawyering and lobbying” that BHP has used on its project in his 25 years of work.

Federal EPA officials told the Times that the BHP plans are still under review and the air pollution permit ultimately could be modified before a final version is issued this spring. At one point the EPA’s San Francisco office had been requiring further mitigation measures from the LNG developer, but the national office in Washington, DC, reversed that based on the fact that the proposed location of the receiving terminal is in a stretch of the Pacific Ocean that is not polluted.

The reversal concluded that more lenient standards could be applied to BHP’s Cabrillo Port project. Nevertheless, the company still has proposals for using natural gas to fuel all of the tankers and service boats used for the LNG project, and in addition converting two working tugboats in the area to operate on natural gas as a further offset.

BHP is providing mitigation that is not required since the lesser standards were applied, according to a federal EPA official. Nevertheless, the head of the Santa Barbara, CA-based Environmental Defense Center argued that EPA has “no legal or factual basis” to support its position for lessening the requirements.

The Times‘ report cited some 12,000 coastal residents who have filed comments, mostly in protest, about the draft air pollution permit from EPA.

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