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American Shipper

Long Beach LNG terminal project heads to court

Long Beach LNG terminal project heads to court

Sound Energy Solutions, a partnership between ConocoPhillips and Mitsubishi Corp, has petitioned the Los Angeles County Superior Court to overturn a Port of Long Beach decision last month to abandon an environmental study of a proposed 25-acre, $750 million liquefied natural gas import terminal in Long Beach Harbor.

   The five-member Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners effectively scrapped the three-year old project on Jan. 22 after deciding the terminal posed 'insurmountable' legal and safety challenges.

   Local interest and community groups, who feared a catastrophic accident or terrorist attack at the terminal would cause severe damage and loss of life in the harbor and adjacent downtown Long Beach area, hailed the board's decision.

   Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster called the LNG terminal the 'wrong project in the wrong location,' while two other key government agencies involved in the process, the California Coastal Commission and California Public Utilities Commission, also expressed serious reservations.

   The SES lawsuit contends that the harbor commissioners violated environmental laws by abandoning the study, and asked the court to force the commission to finish the environmental process.

   'The Harbor Commission wrongly curtailed an established environmental process that is designed to objectively evaluate the project,' SES Chief Executive Thomas Giles said in a news release.

   Giles disputes that the project poses any risks, and points out that the terminal would help the local economy by creating jobs and reducing pollution in the Los Angeles Basin by introducing a cleaner energy source.

   SES indicated in the legal filing that it had spent $20 million on the environmental study and $8 million for required harbor development seismic, engineering, safety and environmental studies, among other things.

   Originally slated to open in 2008, SES believes it could finish the terminal by 2012 if the legal hurdles are overcome.

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