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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.

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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.

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