PORTLAND, Texas - Two residents told federal officials at a public hearing Tuesday night they may intervene if a liquefied natural gas export terminal gets greenlighted for a permit.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had a public hearing to gather comments and answer questions about a project planned by Cheniere Energy through its subsidiary, Corpus Christi Liquefaction. The public hearing is part of the process as Cheniere readies to file an application with the commission. The company plans to file the application in August and hopes to obtain approval by September 2013. Construction on the $10 billion plant is estimated to start in 2014. Tom Ballou Jr., with Sherwin Alumina Company, which borders the site of the proposed plant, said he has public safety concerns. Specifically, flaring could affect employees at Sherwin Alumina, Ballou said.
Cheniere Energy recently met with management at Sherwin Alumina to discuss placing smokestacks for flaring next to the property. However, Patricia Outtrim, vice president of government and regulatory affairs for Cheniere, said the current plan is designed with the smokestacks within the company's property line. In the current design, she said, they would not affect Sherwin Alumina.
Outtrim emphasized that natural gas does not explode unless compressed, and it will not be compressed at the plant.
Ballou said Sherwin Alumina employees have to work in the zones next to the property, and he feared harm to those employees and equipment.
"I've learned that if a thing can't possibly happen, it's going to happen," Ballou said, later adding, "We'll probably file a request to intervene at the appropriate time."
Hal Suter, Corpus Christi resident and president of the Lone Star chapter of the Sierra Club, said his group also would consider intervening if the project moves forward.
Suter pushed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to put together an environmentalimpact statement, rather than just a simple environmental assessment. The statement would include more detail and information than the assessment. John Peconom, environmental biologist with the commission, said the agency would examine issues such as noise, wildlife, the ship channel, socioeconomic effects, public safety and geography. He added that public response could sway whether the commission does a more thorough analysis.
"If we came here and nobody said anything, and everybody was fine with it, that would tell us that an environmental assessment might be appropriate," Peconom said. "We're from Washington, D.C., and we don't claim to know everything that happens in Corpus Christi."
The public is asked to provide comments on the project to the commission by Monday.
Copyright 2012 SCRIPPS Howard Publications. All Rights Reserved.
(Originally published June 27, 2012, in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.)