Perils of gas terminal

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Here are a few choice words to remember as we consider the proposed construction of a ten million cubic foot liquefied natural gas terminal within eyesight off the Malibu shore: Bhopal, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Love Canal, Exxon Valdez. All of these entailed Risk Assessment Process. Obviously, Risk Assessment Process is no more foolproof than the technology it assesses. How great will be the volume of the floating time-bomb California’s Public Utilities Commission is prepared to allow Australia’s answer to Halliburton to anchor off our coast? Picture the footprint of a 10,000 square foot one story home, pretty big even by Malibu standards. Now picture it 100 stories high. That’s about the size of it. And how much gas do they plan to stuff into this thing. Picture 600 of those 100 story high buildings. Fill them all with natural gas and then chill it to minus 259 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s how much natural state gas will be compacted out there. A 10,000 square foot footprint 60,000 stories high. About 110 miles high. Boom. A natural gas explosion Tuesday blew apart a nine story building in Russia dematerializing about 50 people, but Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey feels this stuff is safe. He was quoted by the Los Angeles Times this week as having said of processing facilities like the LNG terminal nearing launch off Malibu, “We know that they’re safe,” adding, “they’ve been in operation at 45 facilities around the world for well over 30 years, and there’s never been an incident at any of those places worldwide. Obviously he skipped the news in January the day that the explosion of a liquefied natural gas facility flattened a large part of the Algerian port of Skikda, killing 30 people and injuring 70, an event that the New York Times reported “has shaken plans to build dozens of liquefied natural gas terminals in the United States.” But, apparently, not in California. The Skikda facility – the former Skikda facility – was renovated in the late 90s by, you’ve got it, Halliburton. Reconstruction cost: eight hundred million to a billion dollars. Would ten million cubic feet of liquefied gas offer a temptation to Al Qaeda? They have their guys train in piloting airliners, but scuba diving? Shortly after 9/11, American intelligence began researching scuba schools to check on students of a certain racial profile who, post 1997, had sought certification. Are the land-based LNG facilities and gas pipelines similarly safe from terrorism? Mike Mizrahi, a Southern California Gas spokesman, assures us that his company aggressively monitors it 45,000 miles of pipeline. As aggressively, one wonders, as the vast resources of Homeland Security assure that a 2000 border with Mexico is never transgressed? We export our jobs, and now we are to import our polluters. Do the Australians really think they can do a better job of despoiling our environment than our homegrown guys? Well, maybe they can. Want to find out?

Dick Guttman