CCC Gives Thumbs Down to LNG Project

Coming on the heals of a historic State Lands Commission hearing in Oxnard earlier this week, the California Coastal Commission (CCC) voted 12-0 yesterday to deny the $800 million liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility proposed to be built 20 miles south east of Anacapa Island. With its vote, the commission essentially concluded that the long-brewing plans by BHP Billiton-specifically to extract and liquefy the fossil fuel in Australia and then transport it via massive double-hulled freighters to California waters and reheat it at the floating facility Oxnard-violates both federal and state environmental standards. Curiously, BHP officials attending the Thursday afternoon hearing at Fess Parker’s Double Tree Hotel in Santa Barabra opted not to present their case to the CCC and instead chose to remain silent for the majority of the four-hour hearing, despite more than a few requests from commissioners for them to speak.

Coupled with the State Lands Commission’s decision on Monday to deny final certification of the Cabrillo Port projects Environmental Impact Report as well as their refusal to grant a land lease to BHP for the various pipes the facility would need to install in Oxnard area beaches, Thursday’s ruling leaves controversial project with few options other than some sort of last ditch legal effort. While the CCC decision, which featured some chastising remarks from visibly annoyed Commissioners, could be appealed to the Unites States Secretary of Commerce the State Lands Commission ruling has no appeal protocol, save for the aforementioned lawsuit.

Regardless of the virtual death blows delivered to the Cabrillo Port plans this week, the project continues down its path of ultimate approval or denial, with a ruling on its state permit required from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger within the next 6 weeks. To that end, the Governator-who has been anything but resolute on the issue-issued a statement in the aftermath of Sate Lands hearing in which he said that “liquefied natural gas should be a part of California’s energy portfolio.”

That being said, the Governor has repeatedly stopped short of specifically endorsing the Cabrillo Port plan. (There are currently at least three other LNG projects being proposed for California.) In an interview with reporters in Washington D.C. on Wednesday afternoon he alluded to the obvious contradiction betwixt the various greenhouse impacts of LNG operations with his recent executive order-and associated Assembly Bill 32, the “Global Warming Solutions Act“-that makes greenhouse gas reductions and state priority. “It’s one of those things where you don’t want to go and protect on the one side the environment and have less greenhouse gas emissions and then on the other hand, you create more [by approving a poorly planned LNG facility],” Schwarzenegger said.

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