Pixel Tracker

Saturday, February 16 , 2019, 12:01 pm | A Few Clouds 58º


Captain’s Log: Clearwater Port LNG Muddies Local Waters

Another application for an offshore LNG terminal has surfaced in the Santa Barbara Channel.

Another application for an offshore LNG terminal has surfaced in the Santa Barbara Channel. Applications keep on coming and if this one is denied as was the previous, I somehow expect yet another. This reminds me of the vote for Goleta cityhood. No matter how many times it was voted down, the proposal was revamped and slid onto the ballot again.

Capt. David Bacon (Ramona Lisa McFadyen photo)
The current application for a deepwater port, offshore liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal is from Clearwater Port LLC, whose parent company is NorthernStar Natural Gas Inc. Their plan is to take over Venoco’s lease of Platform Grace, 10½ miles off the coast between Ventura and Oxnard.

The applicants want to build a floating dock arrangement for two LNG carrier ships. They envision 139 LNG carriers annually. The huge ships will enter and exit our Channel in the existing shipping lanes, although they will deviate from the shipping lanes to approach and depart the LNG facility. While at the facility, LNG will be transferred from the ships, warmed and re-gassified, then sent ashore through new pipelines.

Pipelines must be installed to carry the gas onshore and then distribute it. The plan is for 13.6 miles of new 36-inch diameter pipes, laid across the sea floor to Reliant’s Mandalay Energy Station. Only near shore will the pipeline be buried below the sea floor. Then 60 miles of new high-capacity pipe will be run to a site in Santa Clarita from the Mandalay facility.

NorthernStar states its proposal is about a safe, environmentally sound offshore terminal for meeting the growing clean energy needs of California. Opponents have concerns, including but not limited to:

• An accidental LNG release could result in an ignitable gas cloud of massive proportions.

• Laying pipeline and trenching the sea floor near shore is not good for the environment.

• Adding to large-ship traffic in the Channel increases the likelihood of ship collisions with whales and other marine mammals as well as making Channel crossings more worrisome for boaters.

• Continued dependence on foreign energy when American LNG is available from Kern County, Alaska, Texas and elsewhere.

The list of concerns is long. To that list I’ll add my own: I’m not in favor of privatization of the ocean that creates de facto no-enter zones.

According to Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Peter Gooding, chief of the USCG’s regional Waterways Management Division, the Coast Guard has concerns and risk assessment policies related to homeland security and has stalled the application process timeline to require more information.

There are plenty of hurdles ahead for Clearwater Port LLC. Besides the USCG, they have applied to the state Lands Commission for lands leases. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will look at the proposal to make sure it complies with provisions of an array of acts, including the National Marine Sanctuary Act, Magnuson Stevens Act, Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act and others.

The state Coastal Commission decides whether the proposal is consistent with provisions of the state Coastal Zone Management Plan as well as local regulations. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger also has an opportunity to decide against the proposal. Once through all of that, the federal Maritime Administration oversees deepwater ports. Then there will be an Environmental Impact Statement and the public will have opportunities to weigh in.

Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters  and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a new nonprofit group providing seafaring opportunities for those in need.

Talk to Us!

Please take Noozhawk's audience survey to help us understand what you expect — and want — from us. It'll take you just a few minutes. Thank you!

Get Started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >