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."
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, March 07, 2014:
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.
The NFL has formally designated New Orleans' Jimmy Graham as a tight end for the purposes of his franchise tag value, which is now set at $7.05 million next season unless Graham and the Saints subsequently agree on a long-term deal.
A federal appeals panel ruled Monday that businesses don't have to prove that they were directly harmed by BP's 2010 Gulf Of Mexico oil spill to collect settlement payments.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has closed Interstate 10 from I-49 in Lafayette to Seigen Lane in Baton Rouge.
Jim Bernhard, who engineered the sale of The Shaw Group for $3 billion, recently has told several people involved in Democratic politics that he intends to run for governor in 2015.
A New Orleans levee board wants to hold the oil and gas industry accountable for decades of damage to our state’s coastline, but the Legislature may be poised to put the kibosh on the suit.
New standards curb elective induction
CVS stops tobacco sales
If an Acadia Parish fiddler misses a note while swatting a fly, will a St. Martinville accordionist learn “Ma ‘Tite Fille”?
(It's good, it's bad and it's just crazy)