Tucked away in the corner of the spacious and empty Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center last Thursday night a joint federal-local port hearing on Japanese conglomerate Mitsubishi’s proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving terminal drew many community stakeholders, but only three independent citizens, none of whom objected to accelerated preliminary environmental review.

Tom Giles, executive vice president/COO for Sound Energy Solutions, Mitsubishi’s Long Beach-based company that is proposing to build and operate a 700 MMcf/d LNG receiving terminal, expressed confidence the project is on schedule to begin receiving its first shipments on 27 acres of a former U. S. Navy Base in late 2007 or early 2008. Giles was one of the main speakers at a joint preliminary environmental impact statement “scoping” meeting.

At this pre-application phase, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff and the Port of Long Beach held a joint scoping meeting for gathering public comments through the end of this month (Oct. 30). The results of this effort will be used by FERC staff in preparing the formal draft environmental report on the project, and by doing a joint preliminary review, both the proponents and the regulatory staff hope to shorten the formal review’s time.

Notice of last week’s public meeting described it as a “another opportunity” for public comment, but it noted that FERC would prefer electronic filing of comments (https://www.ferc.gov).

The next steps that will occur in tandem is for Sound Energy Solutions (SES) to file a formal application for import approval from FERC and a formal application for a harbor development permit from the Long Beach port. Then a draft environmental statement and report would be issued, some time next year.

There is little or no talk in Long Beach about the four proposed LNG receiving terminals 150 miles to the south along the Pacific Coast in North Baja, or about the proposed offshore LNG terminal 100 miles northwest along the California coast off Oxnard/Ventura, CA. The proponents are stressing the economic, environmental, energy and safety aspects of the Mitsubishi proposal, coming as it does from a Japanese giant that is already involved in all phases of LNG, from gas exploration/production, liquefaction facilities, shipping, and Japan’s numerous receiving terminals that bring in the bulk of the nation’s energy imports.

The state’s toughest regional air quality district, the four-county Southern California Air Quality Management District (SQMD) that includes Long Beach-Los Angeles Harbor, combined the nation’s busiest port, has endorsed the project mainly on the strength of the developer’s promise to replace all of the growing diesel-fired harbor equipment and vehicles with LNG-powered equipment, reportedly cutting major diesel pollutants by 95% (NOx, SOx and PM).

Finally, for safety, SES emphasized in its public information last week that LNG has an “enviable, 40+ year” safety record in busy ports in France, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, and Greece. Currently 130 LNG tankers are in operation and 50 more are under construction, according to a 12-minute promotional videotape SES made available for a public outpouring it never received. There currently 38 receiving terminals and 17 export (liquefaction) facilities.

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