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Monday, December 04, 2006

The Gulf’s Cold Rush – Liquefied Natural Gas Terminals Pose Fisheries Threat

The Gulf’s Cold Rush – Liquefied Natural Gas Terminals Pose Fisheries Threat

Oil and gas corporations, focusing on the next big energy developments for the Gulf of Mexico, have moved forward with plans to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) from nations overseas that have an excess capacity and less domestic demand for natural gas. The plans call for energy corporations to import natural gas in a super-chilled, liquefied form, warm it to return it to gas form, and then deliver it to our natural gas pipelines.

Currently, four of the 23 facilities proposed for the Gulf are designed to use an off shore, open-rack vaporizer, or open-loop system, which would run Gulf seawater through radiatorlike racks. One terminal alone could use up to 270 million gallons of Gulf water a day to vaporize the natural gas. The drastic temperature change, chlorination, and physical damage caused by the process would destroy fish eggs and larva by the billions. The cumulative impacts of these facilities could be a significant blow to our fisheries. Open-loop LNG terminals are currently proposed in essential habitat for shrimp, redfish (red drum), king mackerel, red snapper, blue fin tuna and other important species.

Shell is currently permitted to develop their Gulf Landing Terminal, 38 miles off the coast of Louisiana, south of Lake Charles. Their terminal could destroy the equivalent of 5.3% of Louisiana’s annual redfish catch, have significant, unknown impacts on other coastal fisheries, and dump 136 million gallons of chilled, chlorinated, lifeless seawater into the Gulf every day. This terminal would be the first significant open-loop terminal in the U.S. to begin operating, making it a critical precedent for other LNG projects. This terminal has been opposed by an unlikely coalition that includes recreational and commercial fishing interests alongside conservation organizations, operating under the banner of the Gumbo Alliance for Safe LNG.

Oil and gas corporations have alternatives: closed-loop or forced-air vaporizer systems, though more expensive to operate, would be significantly less destructive to our fisheries while allowing the oil and gas corporations to profit significantly. The energy industry is important to Louisiana and the Gulf, but so are our commercial and recreational fishing industries, which generate $800 million in commercial landings and $5.6 billion in recreational expenditures annually.

While the GRN and our allies in the Gumbo Alliance for Safe LNG continue to pressure Shell to abandon their plans for a fish-killing open-loop LNG terminal, ConocoPhillips recently announced plans to drop their sole remaining off-shore, open-loop terminal proposal.

Poised to release their final environmental impact statement, ConocoPhillips’ Beacon Port terminal was proposed for 50 miles east-southeast of Galveston, Texas and was a great concern for fishermen and environmentalists alike. Based upon the draft environmental impact study for Beacon Port, the terminal could have destroyed the equivalent of 16% of Texas’ annual redfish catch, and have unknown impacts on important species like shrimp, crab, and blue fin tuna.

ConocoPhillips withdrew their first proposal off Dauphin Island, AL in the face of continued opposition from Alabama’s Governor Bob Riley. While neither Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, nor Texas Governor Rick Perry had commented on the Beacon Port proposal, Governor Blanco had given no indication that she had changed her position of not permitting any further open-loop terminals in the Gulf.

With Beacon Port out of the picture, that leaves just four off-shore terminals either proposed, permitted, or in operation off-shore in the Gulf. The GRN will continue to work to oppose these fish-killing machines, so watch our website for details and opportunities to get involved in the fight for fish-friendly energy in the Gulf, or better yet, join our e-action list to make sure you get news updates in your in-box as they develop.

Aaron Viles
Campaign Director
Gulf Restoration Network
338 Baronne St. Ste. 200
New Orleans, LA 70112
w: 504.525.1528 ext. 207 c:225.615.0346

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