LB Fire Dept. Tells Coast Guard City Hall Concerned Over Proposed LNG Facility's Impacts On Public Safety Resources; LBCUR's Myown Wants Port To Guarantee Public Safety Costs
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(July 12, 2005) -- Voicing first-responder concerns in a high-visibility federal forum, the Long Beach Fire Department Deputy Chief Scott Giles has told the U.S. Coast Guard that City Hall is concerned about a proposed Port-located 80+ million gallon Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facility's impacts on the City public safety resources.
"The City is concerned about the short and long-term impacts to public safety resources," said Deputy Fire Chief Giles in testimony at a July 11 public meeting convened under federal rules by the U.S. Coast Guard to take oral testimony on the suitability of the waterway to accommodate LNG vessels.
"With regard to available resources, our concern would be do we -- the public safety aspect of it -- have the available resources necessary to mitigate a problem dealing with an LNG tanker or an LNG facility?...Will we, the Fire Department, be able to defer to outside third party assessment of our resource capability in terms of those equipments, personnel and facility needs to mitigate the hazards?" Deputy Fire Chief Giles asked rhetorically, then cited a recent Sandia Labs report that offered guidance on LNG risks.
"If you follow the risk assessment and risk management approach model as shown in Figure 33, page 33 [of the Sandia report], it shows that if in fact you do not have enough resources [for] sufficient protection, you need to go back and make changes to your approach in addressing the process. If the onus or responsibility falls on the Long Beach Fire Department to respond and to mitigate all potential spills and releases, who will bear the cost of sustaining purchase of new equipment and the maintenance of such equipment [to] perform those functions during the life of the term?" [audience applause]
Pursuing the point, Bry Myown of Long Beach Citizens for Utility Reform urged that the Port of LB (which as landlord can decide whether or not to allow the facility to be built on Port property) should guarantee payment of public safety costs if it approves the facility.
"As far as local safety resources, there is a dedicated source of funding: that is the Port of Long Beach operating income that has been dedicated to operating and maintaining and managing the risks its operations impose on us. Our city can't afford [school] traffic [crossing] guards. [City management has advocated eliminating school crossing guards at twelve locations, citing budget savings among other factors.] We don't know how the applicant's financial status will perform. Therefore, obtain a guarantee from the Port of Long Beach that it will manage the safety consequences."
Although LB's non-elected Board of Harbor Commissioners has landlord-authority over whether to permit the proposed LNG facility on Port property, LB's elected City Council has City Charter authority over whether to approve -- or disapprove -- the Harbor Department's annual spending budget. That Council vote ordinarily occurs every September.
Ms. Myown's proposal that the Port pay for public safety impacts of a project it has effectively facilitated for over two years drew applause from a number of audience members...
...while recently appointed Harbor Commissioner Mike Walter appeared to be paying close attention while taking notes.
Also spotted at the meeting: LB Councilmembers Rae Gabelich and Val Lerch.
The concerns voiced by Deputy Fire Chief Giles [who is NOT related to Tom Giles, the LNG project applicant's CEO] come roughly sixty days after LBPD Deputy Chief Tim Jackman raised LNG-related issues at a meeting of the City Council's Federal Legislation & Environmental Affairs Committee (chair, Colonna; Vice chair, Kell, member Reyes Uranga) in April. At that meeting, previously reported by LBReport.com), Deputy Police Chief Jackman described a visit to Boston by an LBPD-LBFD delegation in early April which viewed firsthand fiscal, logistical and public safety impacts of an LNG facility in nearby Everett, MA, built in the mid-1970s.
In May 2003, the Port of Long Beach's non-elected Board of Harbor Commissioners approved entering into a Memorandum of Understanding with the LNG applicant to facilitate the project application...before studying public safety or taxpayer consequences or seeking or obtaining Council approval.
In May 2005 on a 5-4 vote, the Council opted to maintain (and not terminate) a companion City Hall MOU with the LNG project applicant, with several Council members indicating they were awaiting an "Environmental Impact Report/Statement" on the project.
However USCG's Capt. Peter Neffenger (at left in photo alongside Lt. Peter Gooding) indicated that in February 2004, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and USCG agreed that LNG related maritime security information would be addressed by FERC in its Environmental Impact Statements "and disclosed to the public to the extent permitted by law" [verbiage reflecting FERC's ability to censor portions of LNG Environmental Review documents citing critical infrastructure security.]
Captain Neffenger continued:
[W]e must ensure that there are adequate federal, state and local law enforcement assets to carry out the plan. We've already implemented a security plan for Liquefied Petroleum Gas vessels which transit the Port of Los Angeles. Vessel security is a joint effort by many law enforcement agencies. We rely heavily on federal, state and local resources to maintain the security route in transit and offload of high interest or high value cargoes.
Through the area Maritime Security Committee which I chair, the Coast Guard has invited key federal, state and local stakeholders from the law enforcement and response community to help validate the suitability of San Pedro Bay for Liquefied Natural Gas and will conduct a review during a series of security meetings.
These meetings will involve security sensitive information and require each participant to sign a non-disclosure agreement.
Although the general public may want to know specific details, the security sensitive nature of the information requires that you trust your law enforcement representatives and your public policy representatives who are participating in the plan validation...
Capt. Neffenger continued:
Under the Coast Guard's guidance, [the LNG project applicant] will conduct a "waterways suitability assessment and submit the results to the Coast Guard for validation and approval. In conducting this assessment, [the applicant] is being required to identify marine security vulnerabilities associated with their proposal, mitigation measures that they propose and resources -- federal, state, local and private sector -- needed to provide an acceptable level of security. This information will be submitted to the Coast Guard for review and comment prior to completion of the Environmental Impact Statement.
The Coast Guard will then provide a formal letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission based on our review and FERC has committed to take this information into account as part of the decision and order process..."
Michael Boyle, representing FERC, told the meeting that the project's Environmental Impact Statement/Report [expected to be a voluminous and technical document] which FERC and the Port of LB have allowed themselves months to prepare will be available for public review and comment for just 45 days...the minimum amount of time allowed. LBReport.com asked Mr. Boyle about this after the meeting...and he indicated that members of the public could ask FERC for additional time for review and comment (which FERC might or might not grant).]
We also asked Mr. Boyle what would happen if FERC were to approve the (federal version) EIS and LB's Board of Harbor Commissioners voted not to certify the (state version) EIR. He replied candidly, "I don't know." [Under the circumstances we didn't ask what would happen if FERC approved the EIR, and the Harbor Commission approved the EIR...and someone appealed the Port's certification to the City Council.]
LNG project applicant Sound Energy Solutions made a presentation at the outset of the meeting. SES CEO Tom Giles said in pertinent part:
...We will take into consideration all the mitigation matter already available to us in the [Pier T site] area and as part of our waterway suitability assessment...
The LNG tanker would take about about fifty minutes to come in from Queen's Gate...We believe the [inaudible] impact to Port traffic can be minimize through advance coordination with the Marine Exchange, Vessel Traffic Services and Jacobson's Pilots [audible displeasure]...The ships are at berth for about 14 hours in the unloading process...
...One of the projects that's interesting, and we have pilot programs going on in both ports [LB and LA], is that there are about 1,400 terminal tractors in both ports. Current emissions from those in diesel are about 2,250 tons of NoX per year, and 93.5 tons of PM per year. If you converted the entire fleet to LNG, you'd come down to 711 tons of NoX and 43 tons of particulate matter...
...What we propose is to provide a stable and low-cost supply of vehicle-grade LNG to the Port, rail and local fleet operators...
...[The project] creates about 1,000 jobs during the construction period and about 60 jobs after that, and it produces a regional supply of LNG that will increase, we believe, the competition in the market but also stabilizes the supply...
Other public testimony included:
Don May, California Earth Corps: ...You're in the same position we are here. We're upset because we get all of the adverse impacts and none of the benefits of this facility, just like you guys have all the responsibility and yet don't have the authority or the resources to carry out your mandate...
Richard Slawson, Exec. Sec'y LA/OC Business & Construction Trades Council: ...I want to report on the confidence that I have that this project can be built successfully and safely. We have the experience of building refineries, the other chemical facilities not only in the Ports but throughout the other cities in the Los Angeles area...With the harbor handling LPG oil tankers for over fifty years, the capabilities of the tanker fleet, captains and port pilots is unmatched. I believe that the waterway suitability report should include an assessment of the safety record of the port pilots in the handling of other tankers over the years...
Dave San Jose: [NLB area resident] ...[T]here are some people that don't have any confidence in our local politicians. The only thing I can say is either run for one of the offices and have some confidence in yourself or move to a city where you feel a little more confident. If we don't have confident [sic] in our government, then maybe we need to do the same thing, move to a different country where you feel a little more confident. [audience groans]...You guys up there, you look like you know what you're doin', and if it was unsafe, I don't think you'd let it happen...
Don Darnauer: [USCG, retired after roughly thirty years of service]...I think it's a little pathetic when the Building Trade organizations are being used to vouch for the safety of this facility just for jobs...We've heard people saying it's no more dangerous than other hazardous stuff coming into our Port. Well if there's other hazards coming into the Port, why add to them? And why should the Coast Guard be put in the position to...be tasked with escorting additional hazards into the Port?...This is not something that we need to add to our economy, with the shortage of funds that we have, and the first responders' responsibilities and the stress put on them to this point. It's just something that we don't need added to the situation already...The whole country depends on what comes through the Port of Long Beach here...There is no advance preventive measures you can take for things that you can't anticipate about...but I would just urge you not to allow any more hazardous things in our Port than are already coming here.
Among other public speakers opposed: Dan Pressburg, Carol McCafferty, Joe Weinstein, Alyssa Trujillo.
Among public speakers in support: multiple individuals identifying themselves as affiliated with construction-related trade unions.
The Coast Guard indicates it will accept written comments in the proceeding received on or before July 27. Information on how exactly how to comment in writing, and details of the Coast Guard proceeding, are in the Coast Guard's official notice published in the June 28, 2005 Federal Register (70 Fed. Reg No. 123, pp. 37104-37106) which can be accessed at www.archives.gov/federal_register/index.html.
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