Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Election raises tembers over Long Beach LNG terminal

Negotiations over a proposed liquefied natural gas terminal in the heart of Long Beach are getting mired in the City's elections, just four weeks away.

Negotiations have been going on for nine months between Long Beach City Hall and the company that wants to build a controversial liquefied natural gas facility. But "negotiations" is an overstatement.

Nothing has happened in the three months since the company, Sound Energy Solutions, made a specific proposal. SES offered $16.3 million up front and $12.6 in annual fees and taxes, plus $3 million in pipeline revenue in exchange for building the facility at the Port of Long Beach. The city offered no counterproposal, then last week abruptly threatened to end the talks for lack of progress, just four weeks before the city elections.

Maybe the timing is just a coincidence, though the company doesn't think so. One of the candidates for mayor, Frank Colonna, has made the LNG proposal one of his campaign issues, and putting the LNG negotiations on the council agenda will give him a chance to make a little hay Tuesday night.

That's small advantage, since three other mayoral candidates, Bob Foster, Doug Drummond and John Stolpe, also oppose the LNG project. In any case, Colonna denies he had anything to do with City Hall's latest demand.

City Manager Jerry Miller says the timing of the city's demand has less to do with politics than with SES' advertising campaign promoting the benefits of an LNG terminal. If persuasive, he said, the campaign could lessen the city's leverage in negotiations.