The Beacon

Liquefied Natural Disaster?

Maybe there will be one up side to Katrina and Rita's recent roaring up the Gulf of Mexico - rethinking whether to site an open-loop Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal off Louisiana's Southeast coast.

Back in July, a coalition of fishermen and environmental groups calling themselves the "Gumbo Alliance for Safe LNG" came together to voice their strong opposition to the Freeport McMoRan company's plans to draw in a constant stream of fresh seawater -- more than 100 million gallons a day -- along 16 miles offshore. That process would eliminate billions of fish eggs, larvae, and plankton drifting in the seawater, creating a fish-killing machine in the midst of one of the Gulf Coast's premier areas for redfish, shrimp, crabs, and more.

I've been following the rush to site new LNG facilities - despite concerns about their vulnerability to natural disasters or terrorist attacks - for several years, ever since Mexico's Baja coastline became a favored target of U.S. corporations, with LNG terminals slated to block the annual migration of the gray whales. (See the Articles section on my website, www.dickrussell.org.)

Now big energy companies want to build 30 to 40 new such terminals, mostly in American coastal communities. Massachusetts fishers are up in arms about plans by Excelerate Energy to place an LNG terminal only a mile from the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, in the midst of critical fishing grounds.

In Long Island Sound, another body of water that should defy industrialization, a joint venture between Shell and Transcanada Corporation wants to do the same. A Mitsubishi subsidiary is looking to build a $450 million LNG facility off Long Beach.

But the Bush Administration isn't about to let these and other states make up their own minds about liquefied natural gas. The president wants federal control in deciding where terminals get built, saying that a lengthy approval process might hurt the economy. Overriding the objections of state governors, the Senate already voted in July to give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission the final say.

One can only hope that the terrible example of the Gulf Coast is giving someone pause.


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