Cameron LNG is a liquefied natural gas receipt terminal situated along the Calcasieu Channel in Hackberry. The terminal is strategically located near a major pipeline hub that serves nearly two-thirds of all U.S. natural gas markets. (Photo courtesy of Cameron/Sempra LNG)
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 4:12 PM
Sempra’s quest to expand its Cameron LNG plant into an export facility will not require the company to submit a new safety assessment on its use of the Calcasieu Ship Channel.
Cmdr. Will Watson of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Lake Charles office told members of the Harbor Safety Committee on Tuesday that no sufficient evidence exists to reopen Sempra’s 2005 water suitability assessment because the company’s proposed exporting business will not make “a significant change” in its operations along the channel.
Sempra’s WSA is a navigation safety and security assessment that companies present to the Coast Guard for review. The WSA is mentioned in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s environmental statement on Cameron’s proposed expansion.
“If there was a significant safety concern that wasn’t considered in 2005 or wasn’t property mitigated, then there’s grounds to relook at this,” Watson said. “Until I have that I think it’s government abuse and overreach to reopen this.”
The matter was broached at Sempra’s meeting with FERC officials last month when local activist Charlie Atherton called for “a current, valid WSA.”
Atherton said Sempra’s proposal will increase shipping costs, pilot costs and tug costs and boost the chances of accidents between ships navigating in the channel.
“The issue appears to be not what you have to do to hit a docked LNG ship, it’s each time you pass what do you have to do to miss it?” he said. “I believe that with the limited data there is sufficient reason to relook at the Cameron docks and to possibly have them do a complete WSA like they were supposed to.”
Members of the Harbor Safety Committee’s board felt differently. David Trent, committee vice chairman, said Cameron’s terminal in the channel was “held to a higher standard than any other terminal in the harbor.”
“You’re talking about a facility that got its FERC approval, went online and worked,” Trent said. “I’m befuddled to think that we would even request a whole other WSA process for something that’s just coming online again.”
Trent said Cameron’s terminal has far less exposure to collisions or damage from traffic than any other terminal in the port. He also said Cameron’s terminal does not add any cost to transiting the ship channel.
“I think we’re throwing a lot of things out there that nobody has any basis for; it’s just opinion,” he said. “Those tugs are under (Sempra’s) contract. Nobody gets billed for them. I don’t see where they up the cost of transportation in the channel one penny.”
Channing Hayden, director of navigation and safety at the Port of Lake Charles, said there have been no incidents at Cameron’s terminal with any ships at berth or not.
“It seems to have proved itself,” he said.
Sempra officials expect to have FERC’s final EIS on the project by April 30 and to receive the commission’s approval on the project by July 29.