Local LNG Foes Get Boost from Major Environmental Watchdog
• Green Powerhouse Litigation Group Announces It Will Take On Woodside Project •
BY HANS LAETZ
BY HANS LAETZ
An environmental watchdog group with a history of filing and winning green lawsuits has surfaced to challenge the proposed Woodside liquefied natural gas terminal proposed for halfway between Malibu and Catalina Island.
The Tucson, Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity has filed a letter demanding that federal and state regulators protect whales, calculate worldwide greenhouse gas impacts, and decide if California can comply with tough new anti-global-warming laws if it opens up a new stream of imported fossil fuels.
Although those demands have already been voiced by other ocean-advocacy groups and individuals, the entry of the CBD into the local LNG fight potentially ratchets up the legal battle, and gives scattered environmental groups along Santa Monica Bay a possible lead agency in the anticipated battle over the proposed Woodside terminal, 21.8 miles south of Point Dume.
“We are in the preliminary stages of evaluating the Woodside process, and haven’t yet decided what exact role we will play,” said CBD attorney Jonathan Evans. “But we are prepared to assume that role when it starts to become a little bit more contentious.”
At issue is a proposal from the Australian-based company to station two LNG ships in local waters, and use them to ferry cargoes of the hazardous material from transpacific carriers that would then transfer it farther offshore and upwind of the bay. The twin ships would regasify the LNG at buoys in the bay, and send the gas into an ocean-bottom pipeline that would come ashore and cross Los Angeles International Airport.
The Woodside terminal, marketed as “OceanWay,” would use a regasification process said to be cleaner than that proposed by BHP Billiton for its “Cabrillo Port” LNG initiative, a proposal for 12.8 miles off Malibu that was shot down over environmental concerns last spring. The environmental review and permitting process for the Woodside project are underway, with a decision at least a year away.
The Center for Biological Diversity has been a frequent thorn in the side of developers and government agencies in the Southwest, challenging Bush administration policies that have left many environmental laws under-enforced. Two weeks ago it gave notice it will sue the federal government over a plan to sweep aside environmental protection laws to pave the way for new high-voltage electric lines across California.
Evans is CBD’s Los Angeles attorney. He said his group noticed that no lead agency has surfaced to take on Woodside by coordinating scientific and legal challenges and decided to take action. The BHP Billiton terminal went down after the California Coastal Protection Network hired Santa Barbara-based Environmental Defense Center for that role.
CCPN director Susan Jordan said her group, and the Santa Barbara lawyers, have their hands full with the NorthernStar LNG terminal proposed for an offshore oil platform off Ventura, and cannot work on the Woodside proposal off the City of Los Angeles.
Woodside officials were not available for comment, but have said in the past they welcome the highest levels of environmental scrutiny. Company spokesperson Michael Hinrichs said last November that the company “anticipated and support(s) the addition of the greenhouse gas life-cycle analysis” as already requested by the federal government, which delayed review of the Woodside project at the request of coastal advocates while the greenhouse gas and other issues are examined.
“This helps us provide the public and decision makers with the most accurate and complete information,” Hinrichs said.
Woodside officials, he added, are “proud that we are the first company in California to conduct such an extensive analysis to evaluate our potential full-cycle air emissions and compare the results to other energy sources.”
In legal documents filed this month with the federal government, the CBD questioned if the greenhouse gas emissions from transpacific shipments of LNG can possibly comply with California’s strict new laws.