Hazardous offshore proposal

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An Australian mining and energy company, BHP Billiton LNG International, Inc., has proposed that an experimental, first-of-its-kind liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage and gas-conversion facility be sited in the ocean off of Malibu. This floating industrial complex, loaded with nearly ten million cubic feet of LNG, would be permanently moored Southwest of Pt. Dume, in Federal waters just beyond the 12-mile limit of State jurisdiction (By comparison, Anacapa Island is 11 miles offshore).

The facility would be regularly visited by tanker ships, each filled with up to 775,000 cubic feet of LNG. After expanding the LNG into its gaseous form by heating it, the facility would pump up to a billion and a half cubic feet per day to Oxnard, along a 21-mile pipeline on the seabed. (This is 1,875 times the volume of gas in the Hindenburg, per day.) Another 23 miles of pipeline would be laid on land to connect with the existing So Cal Gas Company system.

Similar proposals have been previously rejected at seven different locations along the Southern California Coast, from Camp Pendleton to Pt. Conception. Now BHP Billiton is proposing to the federal government that its $550 million facility be sited in a location which is, among other things: within the “Working Boundary Concept” of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary; close to (if not within) high-traffic shipping lanes; adjacent to the once-proposed Malibu Marine Sanctuary (approved by both houses of the state Legislature in 1997 before being vetoed by then-Governor Wilson); within gray whale migration routes; and, incidentally, within eyesight of many ocean-view homes. The seabed pipeline itself would span several active earthquake faults.

Now is the time to ask questions, form opinions, and be heard. A “Public Scoping Meeting and Request for Comments” will be held in the Malibu High School Auditorium, on March 16 (Open house, 4-6 p.m., meeting 6:30-9:30 p.m.). Representatives of the Coast Guard and the California State Lands Commission will be there to answer questions about the facility.

Please study the documents, including the official Notice of Intent.

The questions we ask on March 16 might spare Malibuites from months or years of ongoing controversy; a cubic foot of prevention may be worth a boatload of cure.

Kraig M. Hill