- County panel backs strict air rules for LNG terminal By Kathleen Wilson, kwilson@VenturaCountyStar.com November 15, 2006Message 1 of 1 , Nov 15, 2006View Source
County panel backs strict air rules for LNG terminal
By Kathleen Wilson, kwilson@...
November 15, 2006
A county panel agreed Tuesday to back stringent air quality standards for a liquefied natural gas terminal proposed for construction off the coast.
Voting unanimously, the Ventura County Air Pollution Control Board said the Cabrillo Port should fully comply with the same rule that applies to onshore facilities and oil platforms offshore.
"This is a rule that makes sense for us," county Supervisor John Flynn said. "What is good for the emitters on land is also good for the emitters at sea."
Australia-based BHP Billiton wants to build the port 14 miles off Oxnard's coast. Tankers would carry liquefied natural gas to the terminal, where it would be converted to a gaseous form and piped ashore.
County Supervisors Steve Bennett and Linda Parks proposed that the Air Pollution Control Board on which all five supervisors and several members of city councils serve take the action Tuesday.
They did so in the wake of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's opinion that the terminal needn't comply.
The federal agency is the body that would have to grant the air quality permit. Originally, the EPA agreed that the port was subject to the county standard but then changed its mind, Bennett and Parks said.
Under EPA's current interpretation, the terminal would be subject to looser standards set for Anacapa and San Nicolas islands rather than stricter ones onshore.
Michael Villegas, the county's air pollution control officer, initially agreed with EPA but said Tuesday that he had changed his mind.
Villegas said he reconsidered independent of Bennett and Parks' proposal because the terminal will produce an increase in emissions, but facilities on the two islands are not expected to emit more pollutants.
"That was the Achilles' heel," he said.
BHP Billiton officials said they intend to comply with the county rule, predicting that pollution would actually be reduced if the port is built because tugboats in use now would be retrofitted with clean-burning diesel engines.
Afterward, BHP environmental adviser Kathi Hann said the rule is open to interpretation.
"The EPA will make the final decision," she said. "We're already complying as if we were subject to the rule."
The State Lands Commission and the U.S. Coast Guard oversee the approval process for the terminal.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger can veto it.
About 100 people attended the hearing in Ventura and a couple dozen spoke, most of them in support of applying the rule to the terminal.
But some taxpayer and business groups objected.
Don Facciano, president of the Ventura County Taxpayers Association, saw the move as another delay tactic and a reversal by air pollution control officials.
"This is now a flip-flop," he said.
Surfrider Foundation Ventura County Chapter
Coordinator, Matilija Coalition
(805) 648-4005 pjenkin@...