News / In Depth
Mayor Foster Tells LNG Project Applicant "I Will Not Support...LNG Proposal At The Port of Long Beach"; We Post Mayor's Letter & Recap Recent Salient Actions
(Dec. 10, 2006) -- LB Mayor Bob Foster has by letter informed the firm seeking to build and operate an 80+ million gallon Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facility in the Port of Long Beach that he will not support its proposal.
In correspondence dated December 7, Mayor Foster indicates that in a July meeting with Sound Energy Solutions' President/CEO Tom Giles at SES' office, Foster expressed his "grave concerns over locating such a facility in close proximity to a densely populated urban area and noted that I view my primary responsibility as Mayor to protect the safety of the city."
Mayor Foster's letter continues:
Nothing in my continuing review of the EIR, response to questions from the Port, commentary by the California Public Utilities Commission or other documentation has substantiated the viewpoint that this project ensures the safety of Long Beach residents to my satisfaction. Further, I continue to believe that locating such a large processing and storage facility at the gate of America's commerce pipeline is simply ill advised.
As such, this letter is to inform you that I will not support of [sic] a Sound Energy Solutions LNG facility proposal at the Port of Long Beach."
To view the Mayor's Dec. 7 letter in its entirety, click here.
The Mayor's correspondence follows a letter dated Dec. 4 from LB Harbor Comm'n President James Hankla to Mayor Foster and the City Council, stating that Port of LB "will not divert additional staff resources to the LNG Project without a clear understanding that the City is prepared to support that project." Harbor Commission President Hankla is one of five votes on the Port's governing body...which has not taken any such publicly voted action.
On December 7, LBReport.com broke the story of Harbor Commission president Hankla's correspondence to the Mayor and Council...and shortly thereafter Sound Energy Solutions President/CEO Giles issued a statement which we reported verbatim as part of our coverage of Harbor Commission President Hankla's letter.
SES President/CEO Giles' statement noted that the City Council "has voted twice to continue negotiations and complete the environmental review process [and] release of the final environmental document that will address all issues surrounding the project is imminent and we continue to believe that the CEQA process should be completed."
LB's Mayor currently has no vote under LB's 1980's era City Charter; the nine member City Council sets policy.
On June 7, 2005, the City Council voted 5-4 (substitute motion by Reyes Uranga blocking a Colonna/Lowenthal/Gabelich agendized anti-LNG motion) "to continue 'non-binding' discussions, per Memorandum of Understanding of May 13, 2003 regarding the future long-term natural gas contract for the benefit of the citizens of Long Beach and have the city conduct a risk assessment and a hazard assessment, including the fiscal impact by qualified experts as soon as feasibly possible." The vote was: Yes: O'Donnell, Kell, Richardson, Reyes Uranga, Lerch; No: Lowenthal, Baker, Colonna, Gabelich.
In August 2005, the Council voted 5-4 (motion by Kell, seconded by O'Donnell) to declare that the City Council "reserves the right to take a position on the siting of an LNG terminal in the Port of Long Beach as appropriate and in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act" (which Kell said implies waiting for a forthcoming Port-produced EIR) but remained silent on whether to encourage remote siting.
Kell offered her substitute motion to counter an agendized item by Councilmembers B. Lowenthal, Baker, Colonna and Gabelich to oppose the Port site and communicate to the CA Energy Commission that LB encourages remote siting. Kell's substitute motion carried on the following vote: Yes: O'Donnell, Kell, Richardson, Reyes Uranga and Lerch; No: Lowenthal, Baker, Colonna and Gabelich.
Prior to the August 2005 Council vote, lawyers for Sound Energy Solutions advised City Hall of their position that their client would incur nearly $40 million in damages if the Council approved the agendized item that opposed putting an LNG facility in the Port.
Cong. Dana Rohrabacher (R., HB-SP-PV) (whose district includes the Port areas) also weighed in, calling the agendized item against port-siting of the proposed LNG facility the "worst form of NIMBY-ism."
In the period since those LNG votes, the Council's composition has changed. Councilmembers Suja Lowenthal, Gary DeLong and Gerrie Schipske have replaced former Councilmembers Dan Baker, Frank Colonna and Jackie Kell. As of December, Councilwoman Laura Richardson is gone [now an Assemblymember] and her Council seat will be vacant for several months.
And in mid-July, Mayor Foster succeeded twelve year Mayor Beverly O'Neill. Former Mayor O'Neill supported the LNG project from its 2003 Port-announced inception, appointed Harbor Commissioners under whom the Port facilitated the project and (despite April 2005 urging by the City Council) failed to use her position in the "U.S. Conference of Mayors" to meaningfully oppose then-advancing federal Energy legislation containing LNG provisions that City Attorney Bob Shannon called basically preemptive and unhelpful to the City of LB legally.
During this period, and continuing to the present day, the City of LB and the Port of LB utilize the services of the same legislative advocate/lobbyist (operating under separate contracts) to advocate their DC interests.
While the City of LB (and other coastal cities and states nationally) lost authority in the federal Energy legislation, the Port of LB (says LB's City Attorney) retained virtually complete control as landlord over whether to allow the LNG facility to be built on Port property. The Port of LB, which under LB's 1980's era City Charter is currently governed by non-elected, non-recallable (Mayor O'Neill appointed, Council approved) Harbor Commissioners, is the body ultimately slated to decide whether to certify a PoLB staff-prepared EIR for the LNG project, subject to limited City Council review.
In December 2005, the City of LB (via city management with Council approval) filed testimony/comments in connection with the draft "Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement" on the LNG project, prepared by Port of LB and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staffs. In its filing, the City of LB argued that the draft EIR/EIS failed to meet multiple federal and state requirements and raised safety concerns.
CA's Public Utilities Comm'n, CA Coastal Comm'n & CA Energy Comm'n also criticized portions of the FERC/PoLB LNG draft EIS/EIR...with CPUC calling the proposed Port LNG Site "one of the worst possible sites imaginable."
Related coverage: LBReport.com collected coverage of LNG terminal proposal
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