California LNG projects run into military opposition

By an OGJ correspondent

SAN DIEGO, June 9 -- The commanding general of the US Marine Corps at Camp Pendleton, Calif., has notified US and state officials of his opposition to any proposed construction of an LNG terminal either at the military base or offshore from it.

Maj. Gen. William G. Bowdon last month made his objections known to the US Coast Guard and the California State Land Commission—the two government agencies tasked with assessing the environmental impact of proposed LNG facilities along the California coast.

Bowdon told both agencies in a letter that he opposes any plans for LNG facilities at or near Camp Pendleton, which has been identified as either a primary or alternative site for three separate offshore LNG proposals.

With 17.1 miles of shoreline and more than 125,000 acres of varied terrain in San Diego County, Camp Pendleton is considered one of the Department of Defense's busiest training installations, annually training some 40,000 active-duty and 26,000 reserve military personnel.

Camp Pendleton offers a wide array of training: firing ranges, landing beaches, parachute drop zones, aircraft bombing and strafing ranges, three mock urban warfare towns, and large maneuver areas for training tactical units.

Bowdon's letter especially underscored concerns of the Marine Corps that any proposed LNG facilities would impede the amphibious training that takes place on Camp Pendleton and off its shoreline.

"As the current commander of this installation, I am unequivocally opposed to the establishment of a commercial LNG facility on or near the coastline of this Marine Corps amphibious training base," Bowdon wrote.

Projects' details
Australia's BHP Billiton Ltd. has applied for permits to develop an LNG project known as Cabrillo Port some 14 miles off Ventura County.

Houston-based Crystal Energy LLC, meanwhile, wants to use an existing offshore oil platform off Ventura County for a project of its own.

Both projects have run into fierce opposition closer to their proposed sites (OGJ Online, Nov. 3, 2003).

Under legal procedures, alternate sites must be proposed and considered as part of the environmental review process. Camp Pendleton is said to be on a list of alternative sites because it was suggested as a location for an LNG project in the 1970s.

A BHP spokesperson said the firm is not interested in a Camp Pendleton LNG terminal, although planners had mentioned the military base as a possible alternative to the Ventura County site during state environmental reviews.

ChevronTexaco Corp., with headquarters in San Ramon, near San Francisco Bay, however, has considered Camp Pendleton as a possible LNG site and is said to have discussed the proposal several times with Marine officials.

ChevronTexaco is reported to be looking at a number of sites for LNG import terminals in northern and southern California as well as a terminal that it plans to develop some 8 miles offshore Tijuana, adjacent to the Coronado Islands.

A spokesperson for ChevronTexaco said the firm believes that more than one LNG terminal will be required to address gas needs on the West Coast.

But Bowdon dismissed the idea of any agreement with ChevronTexaco. "The Marine Corps remains absolutely opposed to this idea, and our position on this matter, including the reasons we're against it, has been clearly stated on several occasions to ChevronTexaco officials," Bowdon said.

A US Coast Guard spokesman acknowledged that Bowdon's letter made a strong objection and said it would receive due consideration. But the final decision will likely be made by the US Department of Transportation after consultations with the Department of Defense.

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