Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Lands Commission Ends Public Discussion of Cabrillo Port

The long road to permitting may be drawing to a close for the proposed Cabrillo Port Liquefied Natural Gas terminal.

The California State Lands Commission, SLC, has ended their period of public discussion about the permit. As an ongoing process, the three member SLC board continues to read and review information about the Cabrillo Port project. Australian Mining Company, BHP Billiton, EPA, and the United States Coast Guard continue to make revisions to the project to make it more environmentally appropriate. When asked about the progression in the approval of the project, Steve Green, Press Secretary of Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante stated, “We have to go through a process to determine if this is feasible and can me done in an environmentally safe way.”

This project has to be approved by many agencies before the final okay is given. The United States Coast Guard and the California SLC must approve the project before it can move any further along in the approval process. Calfiornia Coastal Commission Representative, Alison Dettmer, stated that the California Coastal Commission will hopefully be reviewing the project in October, after it has been approved by the SLC, but before it goes to the governor of California for review. Before all is done, the project will also be reviewed by the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. EPA, the governor of California, and the Secretary of Transportation. In regards to the arrival of a final decision of the project, the Attorney for the U.S. EPA’s Region 9, Gary Hess stated, “ a reasonable prediction will be Fall 2006, but its not cast in stone, and we will revisit if reason is given.” We trust that the governmental agencies will review all information concerning the project and have a decision soon.

Related: BHP, Northernstar cite progress on LNG units

Lawsuit debate in Hermosa Beach Elections

While most Californians are focused on the Gubernatorial primary, if anything in next Tuesday's election, a multi-million dollar lawsuit ovefr oil drilling is the focus of races in the South Bay.

Just how to handle an oil company's $500 million breach of contract lawsuit against the city of Hermosa Beach has emerged as a central issue in the race for a City Council seat.

All four candidates in the June 6 special election said the suit by Macpherson Oil Co., which could potentially bankrupt the city, is one of their main concerns, and they don't agree on how to best resolve it.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Energy Infrastructure Encroaching on Parkland

Getting energy resources from here to there across California is placing a special burden on public lands.

Under orders from Congress to move quickly, the Department of Energy and Bureau of Land Management will approve thousands of miles of new power line and pipeline corridors on federal lands across the West in the next 14 months. The energy easements are likely to cross national parks, forests and military bases as well as other public land.

Environmentalists and land managers worry about the risk of pipeline explosions and permanent scarring of habitat and scenery from pylons and trenches. Military officials have expressed concern that the installations could interfere with training.

But industry lobbyists and congressional policymakers said expedited approvals for new corridors were vital to ensuring that adequate power from coal beds, oil fields and wind farms in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho reached the booming population centers of the Southwest.

No Collusion nor Price Gouging

A federal investigation into port-Katrina gas prices found neither collusion nor price-gouging.

Gas prices soared across the country after Hurricane Katrina in late summer, but federal investigators reported Monday they could find no evidence that oil companies manipulated prices or colluded to take advantage of the situation to increase profits.

The Federal Trade Commission also determined in a longer-range finding that during the past 20 years refiners didn't seek to manipulate prices by cutting the number of operating refineries or limiting increases in capacity.

The report, which supports the long-held position of the oil industry that higher gas prices are purely a function of supply and demand in an increasingly global market, will be small comfort to Americans still angry over gas prices of more than $3 per gallon. It isn't clear how the study will affect Congress, where a variety of proposals to begin investigations of alleged gas price gouging and to boost taxes on the oil industry's record profits are being considered.

In California, a spokesman for Attorney General Bill Lockyer said the commission's findings won't deter Lockyer's investigation into post-Katrina gas prices. Lockyer has subpoenaed the CEOs of the big oil companies that operate refineries in the state and will start taking depositions from them in early June, Lockyer spokesman Tom Dresslar said.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

California Begins Comprehensive Wind Energy Study

GE Energy has signed a contract with the University of California to conduct a wind energy study in California.

The California Energy Commission's Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program is funding the project which will span 16 months. It is based on a similar study GE performed in 2004 and 2005 of the New York State power grid.

California currently leads the U.S. in the development of wind power. While the state had 2,150 megawatts (MW) of installed wind capacity at the end of 2005, according to the American Wind Energy Association, this study is considered essential in any given state before any further renewable generation facilities can be built.

Cabrillo Port EIR Draws Few Comments

With the public comment period on the Cabrillo Port LNG facility’s Environmental Impact Report ending tomorrow, the State Lands Commission revealed to the Malibu Times that only 5%-10% of the comments they have received actually address the EIR.

It is reasonable to speculate then, that the SLC will not consider many of the comments submitted because they are not germane to the process, potentially dealing a blow to opponents of the project.

The Times also reveals that the project sponsor, BHP Billiton, has come back to the table with new environmental concessions, including emissions caps and cleaner burning fule for water craft servicing the proposed facility.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Exxon Mobil Moves Closer to LNG Deal in Australia

Exxon Mobil appears closer to a $3 billion deal to develop the Scarborough gas field in Australia. BHP Biliton, which has proposed building the Cabrillo Port LNG facility 20 miles off the coast of Malibu and Ventura County, would partner with XOM on the project.

BHP estimates that the Scarborough field holds 8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Cabrillo Port LNG Project Gains Major Endorsement

The proposed Cabrillo Port LNG project has picked up a major endorsement from the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce.

In its endorsement, the California Hispanic Chambers called project sponsor BHP Billiton a "safety-minded and environmentally friendly company" and commended the Cabrillo Port Project as the "best option for the energy needs of California's working families and small businesses."

In other Cabrillo Port news, Trial Lawyer turned amateur fim-maker Tim Riley and his wife Hayden, both vocal opponents of the Cabrillo Port project, issued a press release promoting the sale of their documentary film about LNG and touting a revised risk study that claims that, in the event of an accident at Cabrillo Port, a flammable vapor cloud extend as far as seven miles.

Earlier studies had put the radius at closr to two miles, but supporters of the project note that neither figure is cause for alarm because Cabrillo Port will be almost 20 miles offshore and becuase the report relies on a fantastically unlikely worst-case-scenario.