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    CA Energy Comm'n Posts Staff-Prepared Fact Sheet On Algerian LNG Plant Explosion; LB Area Activists Respond

    (February 14, 2004, updated Feb. 27) -- The CA Energy Commission, a state government agency, has posted on its web site a staff-prepared fact sheet regarding a January 2004 Algerian LNG plant explosion.

    [update] Following's original report, the CA Energy Commission updated and revised its fact sheet text. We have posted a link below to the revised text below. [end update]

    The CA Energy Commission web site says the agency is "the state's primary energy policy and planning agency." Created in 1974 by the legislature, the agency's says its responsibilities include forecasting future energy needs and keeping historical energy data, licensing thermal power plants 50 megawatts or larger; promoting energy efficiency through appliance and building standards; developing energy technologies and supporting renewable energy; and planning for and directing state response to energy emergency.

    Since passage of the legislature's 1996 Electric Industry Deregulation law (AB 1890), the CA Energy Commission also oversees "funding programs that support public interest energy research; advance energy science and technology through research, development and demonstration; and provide market support to existing, new and emerging renewable technologies."

    The Commission has five members, appointed by the Governor with Senate confirmation, who serve staggered five-year terms and must come from and represent specific areas of expertise: law, environment, economics, science/engineering, and the public at large.

    The Commission's current members are (with their appointment designations as identified on the agency's web site): William J. Keese, chair (Public Member), Arthur H. Rosenfeld, Ph.D. (Democrat) (Engineer/Scientist), James D. Boyd (Economist), John L. Geesman (Democrat) (Attorney) and B.B. Blevins (Republican) (environmentalist). also posts below responses to the agency document by LB area activists opposed locating an LNG facility (proposed by a Mitsubishi subsidiary) onshore in the Port of LB. The activists have argued that if an LNG facility is to be built at all, it should be offshore.

    The firm seeking to build the LB LNG facility maintains its own separate web site with information on its proposal, accessible at

    [update] As noted above, on Feb. 20 the CA Energy Commission updated and revised its fact sheet. To view the agency's Feb. 20 revised version, click here.

    Comments of Activists

    [comments were in our original Feb. 14 posting]

    Bry Myown, LB writer: "The so-called 'Fact Sheet' contains few facts and no reassurance for Californians. It is based almost entirely on supposition, and its conclusions are largely irrelevant. That sabotage was 'probably' not involved provides no immunity against sabotage. That a boiler exploded means only that one of many mechanical components that can fail did, and one of many potential ignition sources precipitated the fire.

    LNG is flammable, and any number of events can cause it to burn. All the National Fire Protection Service is telling Californians is what color their fire(s) might be.

    However, the supposition that very little LNG was on hand and the fire was primarily fueled by propane and ethane is hugely significant for residents of Long Beach. A Mitsubishi subsidiary is proposing to build a facility that will store up to 80,000,000 gallons of LNG as well as to strip propane and ethane and store them in two adjacent, 85-foot diameter pressurized spheres.

    The proposed site, located in the nation's largest port complex, is surrounded by crude oil and other hazardous materials and is already the subject of local government lobbying for Homeland Security/antiterrorism funds.

    The significant statement in the CEC report is apparently based on witness testimony: 'Some plant workers alleged negligence...They complained that they had warned that an accident would happen...but no one listened.' If negligence is an issue, the tragedy did not result from any particular mechanical or chemical component but from an act of omission...

    Unlike [the Algerian government-owned] Sonatrach, the proposed Long Beach facility will not be a government-run operation. Rather, it is the product of a deal struck between government officials that obtained no public input before entering into the agreement and a corporation whose first loyalty is to its investors. Residents are already warning that an accident or terrorist event could happen, but no one is listening. Adding millions of gallons of flammable and explosive chemicals to the situation is not likely to produce a good outcome.

    The California Energy Commission will be required to respond to Mitsubishi's and other pending LNG applications. It has stated in its fact sheet, "U.S. newspapers published in cities near proposed LNG receiving terminals are carrying the story, escalating local concerns about LNG hazards and public safety risks and fostering distrust of government and industry officials who attest to LNG's safety."

    I am unsure how a government agency can judge what motivated media to report an internationally significant event that was, in fact, also reported around the world in most cities not located near pending applications save Sacramento, home of CEC. The implications that a government agency should determine what news should be reported, that potentially impacted residents should not be concerned or fully informed about hazards and public safety risks and that the public should put blind trust in claims made by officials of a profit-making industry are all appalling.

    But nothing can do more to foster distrust of government than the implication that the CEC has already predetermined the safety of the industry and the claims made in pending applications. The best appearance given by this "Fact Sheet" is that the CEC sees its role as not to respond to the safety claims to which industry officials will attest in pending applications, but to perform a public relations service on their behalf."

    Gordon LaBedz, Conservation Chair, Southern California Sierra Club: "The report showed that LNG accidents do happen, and that when they do, people will die. They knew that before the accident. Dangerous facilities should not be built in populated areas, ever!"

    Diana Mann, chair, Chair of ECO-Link, Long Beach: "The reports on the LNG Blast in Algeria so far all focused on the explosion, the property destroyed, and the impact on the LNG industry.

    There was little told about the people injured and the lives lost. There was no mention of the families or the injuries, pain and the emotional loss in their community. If there was an accident here in Long Beach, would the lives lost take the same back-seat compared to industry losses?..."

    Related coverage:

    Feb. 2004: Port Exec. Dir. Steinke Says LNG Project Approval Process Only In "Very, Very Early" Stages; Councilmembers Lowenthal, Uranga Urge Port To Do Public Outreach

    Feb. 2004: Councilwoman Lowenthal, Harbor Commissioner Cordero & LB Port Exec. Dir. Steinke Discuss LNG Proposal on City Hall TV Show

    Feb. 2004: Councilwoman Lowenthal's TV Show Statement re Boston Area LNG Facility Compared To MA Congressman Web Site

    Feb. 2004: FERC Solicits Fast Track Study Applicable Nationwide To Evaluate Flammable Vapor & Thermal Radiation Hazards Of Unconfined LNG Spills on Water From An LNG Cargo Release

    Jan. 2004: Dem. Presidential Candidate Sen. Kerry Supports Improving LNG Transportation Systems, Incl. Development Of New Technologies Such as Offshore Regassification

    Jan. 2004: Exclusive: Will Assemblyman Lowenthal Urge Gov. Schwarzenegger To Ask FERC To Do Independent, Individualized Site-Specific Safety Study Re LNG Facility Proposed In Port of LB? We Post Assemblyman Lowenthal's Answer

    Further archived articles: Reference section/LNG Proposal

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