Following a capacity meeting at city hall, in an early morning decision, the Long Beach city council decided in a 5-4 vote to not withdraw a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) entered into with Sound Energy Solutions (noisy website = no link), a subsidary of Mitsubishi Corporation. Instead, a substitute motion made shortly after midnight by Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga (Dist 7) authorized the city to research the impact of the Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) port.

The LNG site is proposed for the former Naval base property at Pier T in the Port of Long Beach.

Public comment was limited by the council at the 9-pm start of the agenda item. Pro-LNG proponents consisted almost entirely of labor proponents in matching orange t-shirts and businessmen bearing SES-provided “Yes LNG” signs and matching stickers. Their primary argument in support of the development was the jobs provided during construction, estimated by SES to be in excess of $200 million.

SES publications indicate the full time employment, after construction, as only 61 people.

Opponents of the project focused largely on risk to the community from accident, terrorist activity or earthquake which could result in an catastrophic explosive event. Discussion variously estimated the deaths, injuries, economic and property damage to a range from one to three miles from the site.

Estimated Swath of Distruction (
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Councilpersons reported on conversations with Boston officials which stated that the question was not whether a catastrophic incident with an LNG port would occur, but a question of when.

Alternative locations for the LNG port were briefly discussed, including an offshore facility and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. The security inherent in siting adjacent to Camp Pendleton is already utilized by the San Onofre Nuclear Reactor.

In a last minute procedural move a pending motion to withraw from a Memorandum Of Understanding with SES was outmanouvered by a substitute motion that ended in confusion with councilmembers asking whether they had voted or not, whether discussion was closed and what, if any, were the budget costs incurred by the motion.

During the course of the evening, the numerious speakers, councilpersons and the city attorney discussed the implication on the Port of Long Beach of pending Federal legislation. Councilmembers who had recently traveled to Washington DC bluntly expressed their opinion that conversations with staffers and lawmakers made it clear that President Bush intends to have legislation compelling the construction of the port regardless of the action of the City Council.

Tom Giles, president of the SES, represented to the meeting that SES would not build the LNG port, unless it was ultimately approved by the Council. Other speakers noted however, that SES had submitted briefing to the Federal Government, urging that it exercise federal preemption powers. The city attorney read a portion of federal legislation now being considered that would assign compete authority for LNG ports to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

FERC has previsously demonstrated its sensitivity to the needs of California citizens by refusing to intervene in the 2000 Energy Crisis. In its regulatory role of monitoring and supervising interstate commerce in energy, FERC refused to intervene to stop fraudulent activity by energy companies, including Enron, that resulted in billions of dollars stolen from California consumers. Subsequent efforts led by the California Attorney General Bill Lockyer resulted in civil settlements currently in excess of $1 billion.

A draft environmental impact report (EIR) is anticipated in September 2005, afterwhich will occur a 45-day period of public comment. Ironically, the victorious Council motion requires futher investigation and study, of an unspecified nature and scope, duration and cost.

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