Earlier this month, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeal in New Orleans heard a landmark case challenging a federal permit for a Liquefied Natural Gas terminal 38 miles off the coast of Cameron Parish. The suit ' filed by the Gulf Restoration Network, the Sierra Club and the Louisiana Charter Boat Association ' contends the Maritime Administration did not adequately consider the environmental impacts of the $700 million Gulf Landing terminal it permitted in February 2005. Represented in court by a student attorney from the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic, the coalition says it is not opposed to the LNG terminal being built but insists it should be required to use a closed loop system to reheat the imported gas.
Open loop LNG terminals take in up to 150 million gallons of seawater in a single day to help reheat sub-freezing LNG. Closed loop systems burn off gas and use recycled water to reheat LNG.
An initial study by the National Marine Fisheries Service, which has advised against using open loop terminals, showed the Gulf Landing terminal alone could kill up to 3.8 percent of Louisiana's annual redfish landings. Environmentalists fear the impact could be much worse, especially with the combined affect of multiple LNG terminals now proposed for the Gulf ' three of which may eventually operate off the coast of Cameron Parish. Cameron's coast has been a popular location for LNG terminals due to its extensive network of gas pipelines.
Shell and the Department of Transportation argued in court that the effects of an open loop LNG terminal on fisheries would be minimal, and that closed loop systems are not as safe, reliable or cost-efficient. Shell has estimated a closed loop terminal would cost $43 million more annually to operate than an open loop terminal. The company issued a statement after the hearing: "Shell remains confident that we can operate Gulf Landing in a way that ensures no significant impacts on fishing and shrimping in the Gulf of Mexico." In addition, Shell told The Independent Weekly that "the government imposed strict and enforceable conditions on the Gulf Landing license that require a comprehensive prevention, monitoring and mitigation program" in order to ensure the safety of marine life.
Gulf Restoration Network officials say the environmental risks of operating an open loop system outweigh the added financial costs of closed loop systems. "I think our little David matched up against the Goliath pretty well," says Aaron Viles, campaign director with GRN. "I think these judges understand that fishing is instrumental to the way we live here."
Viles also says the judges made note of the fact that Louisiana, as an adjacent state to the offshore terminal, was given a 45-day window of opportunity to veto Gulf Landing's permit ' an option that Gov. Blanco did not exercise. Blanco has since come out in opposition to open loop terminals. The state's veto authority may now be a moot point since last year's energy bill contained a provision that allows the Maritime Administration the authority to override state opposition to LNG terminal permits.
With the hearing complete, Viles hopes for a court ruling within the next month, but decisions can sometimes take more than a year. The case represents the first court challenge to a federal permit of an LNG terminal.
While eagerly awaiting the court's decision, the GUMBO Alliance was not letting up pressure on other proposed LNG terminals. At a series of public hearings this week, the group plans to file statements opposing two other Gulf LNG terminals still in the permitting process. The Coast Guard recently completed its final environmental impact statement for Freeport MacMoRan's Main Pass Energy Hub, a terminal the company plans to build off the coast of Plaquemines Parish. Last week, Freeport MacMoRan announced modifications to the terminal that it says will further reduce the impact to fisheries. Gumbo Alliance says the changes do not go far enough and remains opposed to the open loop terminal. It is lobbying the state to block the project during the 45-day veto window that starts this week.
Initial public hearings are also slated to begin this week for Conoco Phillips' Beacon Port terminal, to be located south of Cameron Parish.
The Maritime Administration has issued three permits to date for offshore LNG terminals ' only one of which has been built. While Shell's permit has been tied up in court, Chevron Texaco withdrew plans for its permitted terminal, planned for south of Vermilion Bay, due to issues over securing an adequate supply of imported LNG.
The Energy Bridge terminal, owned by the Texas company Excelerate Energy, began operating 116 miles off the Cameron Parish coast last year and has taken in only two LNG shipments thus far.
Viles says he has already had conversations with Excelerate about working toward a more marine-friendly terminal. He also hopes a favorable ruling in the Gulf Landing case will send a message.
"Hopefully, if a clear sign is sent from the Gulf of Mexico, from our governor and our fisheries managers, that open loop is not acceptable. We hope that Excelerate at some point will be able to operate 100-percent closed loop in this region as well."
OK, so they’re bentgrass, the type used on golf course greens. But grass is grass.
The Senate Finance Committee approved the bill Wednesday, despite opponents who argued it would shut down the storefront lenders.
A measure to allow the state to implement its own, less stringent plan for limiting carbon dioxide emissions unanimously passed the Senate.
FDA to regulate e-cigarettes, Jodie Foster gets married, Vermont to require labels on genetically-modified food, and more news for today, April 24, 2014.
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
A push to expand Louisiana's Medicaid program as allowed under the federal health care has been overwhelmingly rejected by the Senate health committee.
Louisiana welfare recipients would be prohibited in state law from spending the federal assistance at lingerie shops, tattoo parlors, nail salons and jewelry stores, under a bill that received the support Wednesday of a House committee.
Senators will consider whether to prohibit private businesses in Louisiana from paying unequal wages to employees of different genders for the same job.
Rep. Joel Robideaux has delayed bill hearings and said unless a compromise can be reached, he won't bring up the legislation this session.
Once again, Lafayette Parish School Board President Hunter Beasley is focused on an issue that has nothing to do with the educational well-being of our public school children.
After exhausting his appeals all the way to the state Supreme Court, the owner of the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete has no legal remedy left save one: do an end run around the high court via a bill that would grandfather his “right” to keep a 550-pound tiger enclosed in a pin at his roadside business.
Louisiana poet Darrell Bourque has won the 2014 Louisiana Writer Award, given annually to recognize outstanding contributions to Louisiana's literary and intellectual life.
Drivers would have to secure dogs riding in truck beds while on interstate highways, if the Senate agrees to a bill backed by the House.
An effort to prohibit employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity was shelved Tuesday for the legislative session.
Louisiana won't lessen its penalties for marijuana possession, keeping laws on the books that allow people to be jailed up to 20 years for repeat offenses of having the drug in hand.
“This is one of the oldest divides that exists, and that divide is about the haves and the have-nots.”
It took a few weeks for the pitfalls to emerge in the governor’s $25 billion budget, but the time of judgment has finally arrived.
With pressure continuing to build for him to resign, Congressman Vance McAllister announced plans recently to remain secluded during the Easter break, but the Swartz Republican has said he’ll be back on the Hill casting votes and attending committee meetings when the congressional recess ends April 28.
A bid to limit the use of unmanned aircraft on private property in Louisiana stalled Monday in the Louisiana Senate.
A Shreveport lawmaker said Monday he's scrapping his proposal to name the Bible as Louisiana's official state book.
Attorney hopes fellow lawyers will join him in urging the D.A. to step aside and allow a competent, ethical challenger to take over the scandal-ridden office.
An official with the Louisiana Department of Education was arrested on a range of charges Friday after allegedly breaking into a home and brandishing a knife.
State Rep. Stuart Bishop says he’s concerned with the quality of Capitol Lake, but when it comes to Louisiana’s coastline, this Lafayette Republican doesn't seem to give a damn.
Democrats sweating this year's elections may be hoping that the Obama administration's latest delay to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline takes a politically fraught issue off the table for the midterms.
Louisiana lawmakers are entering the second half of their three-month regular legislative session, which must end by June 2. Where some of the major issues stand: