The U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) and the City of Los Angeles intend to prepare a joint Environmental Impact Statement/ Report (EIS/EIR) for a licensing application for a liquefied natural gas (LNG) deepwater port located in federal waters in Santa Monica Bay, 27 miles southwest of LAX (Los Angeles International Airport).

The first public scoping meeting and informational open house regarding the proposed project — OceanWay Secure Energy — was held Wednesday, September 26th, at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott Hotel to enable the public to view graphs and other visual aids, speak with engineers and to provide input and comment to a panel involved with the project.

The final day for the comment period is Monday, October 15th, and comments can be made online, by fax or in writing.

The address for mailed comments is:

Docket Management Facility, U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE, West Building, Room W12-140, Washington, D.C. 20590-0001.

The fax number for comments to the Docket Management Facility: (202) 493-2251.

The Web site for comments is dms.dot.gov/.

The project could construct natural gas pipelines underwater leading to Playa del Rey at Vista del Mar, then continuing underneath the El Segundo Blue butterfly habitat at Pershing Drive, and proceeding under Westchester Parkway to link up with the first gas transfer station.

Woodside Natural Gas is the company that proposes to build and maintain the project, and it submitted applications to the U.S. Coast Guard for a Deepwater Port License, and to the City of Los Angeles for a pipeline franchise permit.

As required by NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) and CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act), the EIS/EIR must also consider alternatives.

For final project approvals, the Coast Guard will serve as the lead agency under the National Environmental Policy Act, and the City of Los Angeles is the lead agency under CEQA.

In addition to a No Action Alternative, other alternatives considered in the EIR/EIS will be:

… deepwater port concepts;

… deepwater port alternative locations and associated pipelines;

… shore crossing, receiving and custody transfer station, and pipeline locations and installation techniques; and

… alternative regasification technologies.

All alternatives will be screened for environmental impacts (including cumulative impacts), feasibility and cost effectiveness pursuant to NEPA and CEQA, according to project documentation.

The final EIR would assist the administrator of the U.S. Maritime Administration in evaluating the license application for the proposed action.

The Los Angeles City Council may approve, approve with conditions or deny the franchise.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger may approve, disapprove or notify the U.S. Maritime Administration of inconsistencies with state programs relating to environmental protection, land and water use, and coastal zone management for which the maritime administration may condition the license to make consistent, according to Coast Guard, U.S. Maritime Administration and City of Los Angeles documentation.

The project would consist of:

… one deepwater port with two single-point mooring buoys approximately 12,000 feet apart, located approximately 27 miles southwest of LAX in federal waters in approximately 3,000-foot water depth;

… regulated navigation areas that would include an approximately 3,000-foot-radius safety and security zone; an approximately 4,000-foot-radius no-anchoring area and 9,000-foot radius area to be avoided around each single-point mooring;

… three designated off-shore ship-to-ship (STS) transfer areas;

… two 35-mile long, 24-inch-diameter sub-sea pipelines that would deliver natural gas from the deepwater port to shore-based facilities;

… two four-mile-long, 24-inch-diameter onshore natural gas pipelines that would extend from the shore crossing at LAX to the receiving station and custody transfer station;

… one receiving and custody transfer station located in the City of Los Angeles to receive and deliver natural gas to the Southern California Gas Company natural gas network; and

… up to three tie-ins to the Southern California Gas Company network via either 36-inch- or 24-inch-diameter onshore pipelines from the receiving and custody transfer station to the Southern California Gas Line tie-ins with up to 12 miles of natural gas pipeline in the cities of Los Angeles, Inglewood and South Gate.

LNG would be delivered from overseas and transferred to specialized Regasification Liquefied Natural Gas Carriers (RLNGCs) at ship-to-ship locations, and then these carriers would deliver LNG to the deepwater port.

The carriers (RLNGCs) would be 1,100 feet long, with a maximum cargo storage capacity of 224,000 cubic meters.

Liquid natural gas would then be regasified to natural gas by the carrier’s ambient air vaporization system.

The deepwater port and pipelines would be initially designed to handle a daily rate of 0.4 billion cubic feet per day (bcf/d) and a peak delivery capacity of 1.1 billion cubic feet per day (bcf/d).

At full project development, these rates would increase to 1.0 and 106 billion cubic feet per day, respectively. At full capacity, the deepwater port would receive an estimated 125 cargoes per year.

Woodside Natural Gas representatives said their project would solve the state’s natural gas supply needs, relying on specially-built “regasification” ships to receive liquefied natural gas cargo from carriers far offshore.

These ships would then convert the liquefied natural gas, using a technology that Woodside says is proven and designed to protect California’s environment.

The ships would connect to one of two submerged buoys anchored far offshore and, through the buoys, deliver natural gas into dual pipelines running along the ocean floor.

The gas would travel through those undersea pipelines to the existing onshore gas network.

After downloading their natural gas cargo, the ships would leave the area and the buoys would sink below the ocean’s surface, with no visibility of any offshore structure when ships are not unloading their cargo, according to the Woodside representatives.

They also said they would avoid construction of any permanent offshore processing structures, including terminals, platforms and rigs.

No tug boats would be required, avoiding additional air emissions from diesel-powered vessels, since the regasification ships are powered by clean-burning natural gas to lower air emissions.

The OceanWay project regasification system uses sea air for warming the gas, and is one of the safest and most environmentally sensitive technologies for this process, according to Woodside documentation.

The proposed site of the OceanWay project would avoid established whale migratory routes and not use sodium vapor lighting, known to attract sea birds and leading to avian deaths.

The project would also not use high-powered sonar, which might be harmful to whales, dolphins and other sensitive marine life, said Woodside officials.

U.S. Congresswoman Jane Harman has taken a strong position against the project because of the potential security risk of building a liquid natural gas facility “next to the top terrorist target [LAX] on the West Coast,” said Harman’s field deputy Jim Kennedy.

Playa del Rey resident Karen Kanter, one of many opponents of the project at the meeting, said the project poses serious environmental, health and safety risks for the community at large and is an unfair imposition on nearby residents.

“Neighboring communities already tolerate the daily impacts of a sewage treatment plant, an oil refinery, two electrical power plants, and the world’s third-busiest airport,” Kanter said. “Residents who live near the proposed project in Playa del Rey would have to bear yet another burden, and endure the constant 24-hour sound of drilling for over nine months during construction.”

The construction of a new pipeline, potential leaks in the pipeline and increased shipping traffic could destroy the delicate Santa Monica Bay and do irreparable damage to the dunes and the El Segundo blue butterflies, Kanter claimed.

Other speakers at the scoping meeting alleged that the United States is addicted to fossil fuels and that foreign energy companies are attempting to lock up the American market with their natural gas imports, such as Australia, Malaysia and South America.

The threat to the environment, marine life and the addition to global warming were also issues raised at the meeting.

Speakers from Malibu and Ventura County also came to speak against the project, saying that a similar project had been considered in those areas.

One of these speakers said that 3,000 people had shown up for the Oxnard hearing on liquefied natural gas.

Concerns about illegal immigrants stowing away on board tankers prompted one person to state that under the Deepwater Port Act, employees have to be American citizens.

Accidents during regasification were mentioned, as well as the effects on air pollution if the gas were vented inadvertently into the environment.

Representatives for captains of the tankers said the ships are safe and that European captains who have done this work for 30 years claim they have never had an accident or that gas was never released into the environment.

The opportunity for U.S. citizens to work for these companies was also mentioned.

A representative for the U.S. Merchant Marine said they pass U.S. Coast Guard “muster” with vigorous background checks and physical tests, and that they are “loyal to the U.S. and U.S. flagships have American officers and crews.”

Other speakers said that solar and wind power alternatives also brought jobs and that individuals could be trained to work in those areas.

One speaker said that natural gas could be brought in from all over the world, and that the chemistry makeup is different, burning hotter and more corrosively, with a much greater impact on the environment.

The complete application and information will be posted online at a new Web site, www.regula tions.gov/.

Public libraries near the pipeline route will have the information, and information on the city’s processes regarding the application will be posted on the City of Los Angeles Web site under “OceanWay” at eng.lacity .org/techdocs/emg/Environmental_Review_Documents.htm/.

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