As part of the six-week public comment period on a recently released favorable draft environmental impact assessment, local residents along the Southern California coast, about 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles turned out last week (Nov. 30-Dec. 3) at local meetings hosted by the city governments to express their views on the proposal of Australian resources giant BHP Billiton to develop an offshore liquefied natural gas receiving terminal. Despite the developer’s promise of $25 million in annual economic benefits with no safety/environmental risks, most of the residents’ views were negative.

A local representative based in Oxnard, CA, Kathi Hann said the reactions were”mixed” at four meetings that drew 500-700 people collectively. “We feel once the community understands that this will be built to the safest possible standards and will provide much-needed added energy supplies, we think they will support our plans.”

Despite industry and governmental assessments to the contrary, local residents spurred on by local elected officials insisted that LNG — even 14 miles offshore in BHP’s proposed Cabrillo floating facility — was too dangerous. Some residents, however, expressed support, noting the offshore approach was a safer way to bring in new energy supplies that the state will need in the future.

Despite this, the wife of the Oxnard Mayor Manuel Lopez told the local residents that “accidents do happen, and terrorism does happen. With any data open to interpretation, I hope you err on the side of caution,” according to a local Associated Press wire services report.

Last Tuesday’s public comments, along with others, are supposed to be included in the final EIR that is expected to be hammered out early next year.

Hearings were also held inland in the bedroom community of Valencia, about 60 miles north of Los Angles where a major upgrade to Southern California Gas Co.’s natural gas transmission pipeline backbone system would be made. That is in the vicinity of the Sempra utility’s two major underground natural gas storage facilities and its major pipeline arteries for pumping supplies north and south.

Hann emphasized that Billiton chose the offshore Oxnard terminal location because of its proximity to a major SoCalGas interconnection onshore at Ormond Beach. Plans now call for a facility that handles 800 MMcf/d, with the capability of being expanded up to 1.5 Bcf/d. With the final environmental impact report, BHP Billiton expects to move ahead with developing the floating terminal for the start of supply receipts in mid-2009.

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