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Dateline Alabama: Environmentalists, fishermen seek to stall Shell's deepwater LNG port in Gulf: “Fishermen and environmentalists… asked a federal appeals court on Friday to stop Shell Oil Co. from going ahead with plans for an LNG port off the coast of Louisiana.” ( Posted 16 April 05



Associated Press Writer


Fishermen and environmentalists fearful that red snapper and shrimp stocks will be depleted if a slew of liquefied natural gas terminals go up in the Gulf of Mexico asked a federal appeals court on Friday to stop Shell Oil Co. from going ahead with plans for an LNG port off the coast of Louisiana.


The activists are asking the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to review the terminal's permit. The terminal, which is called Gulf Landing LLC, is slated to open in 2010.


Gulf Landing is one of seven offshore LNG terminals that could be built in the Gulf using a system that would take massive amounts of ocean water to warm up supercold LNG back into gas. Some marine biologists say the terminals would kill large amounts of fish eggs and marine life when they suck up the ocean water.


The Tulane Environmental Law Clinic is handling the lawsuit on behalf of the Sierra Club, the Gulf Restoration Network and the Louisiana Charter Boat Association. The three groups and commercial fishermen have joined together into the so-called "Gumbo Alliance" to fight the wave of new terminals.


This is the first LNG terminal in the Gulf to be challenged under the Deepwater Ports Act.


Karla Raettig, an attorney with the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic, said challenging the permit under the act is "new territory."


The appellate court could refuse to even consider the petition.


If the court considers the case, Raettig said the plaintiffs will allege that the U.S. Department of Transportation failed to abide by environmental, clean water and endangered species laws when it approved the permit on Feb. 16.


"They didn't follow the law and it's an egregious case," Raettig said.


Shell insists that its terminal would not hurt the Gulf's fisheries and that it would actually operate under stricter requirements than two other LNG terminals previously approved by the Bush administration.


"Shell agreed to very specific requirements outlined by the U.S. government following a rigorous 16-month approval process," Habiba Ewing, a Shell spokeswoman, said.


Shell will be required to monitor what, if any, damage the terminal will do to fish stocks and pay for damages.


The company points out that its environmental plan will include input from state and federal fisheries agencies and the Coastal Conservation Association, an influential group of recreational fishermen.


Friday's legal move comes after weeks of pressure by the Gumbo Alliance to get Shell to use a vaporization system that would recycle water to heat up the supercold LNG. The alliance says that kind of system would be safe.


The wave of offshore terminals has been viewed as a rallying issue for diverse groups that do not typically find much in common.


"In the Gulf it is doing an interesting thing: It is bringing the shrimpers, fishermen, environmentalists and the anti-pollution forces together," said David Helvarg, president of Washington, D.C.-based ocean advocacy group Blue Frontier Campaign. "This is one of those things that will bring people together."


"People ask why we are involved with the green groups," said Charlie Smith, head of the Louisiana Charter Boat Association. "We have a financial stake in this."


He noted that the number of charter boat captains has risen from 200 to 500 in the last 10 years. His group has led a campaign to boycott Shell unless it changes Gulf Landing's water-warming system.


Since 2003, market conditions have sparked a wave of interest in onshore and offshore LNG terminals. Gas production has declined while consumption has increased.


Helvarg said about 30 offshore facilities have been proposed around the U.S. coast and that the Bush administration has been sympathetic to allowing them go up.


He questioned the wisdom in pushing forward with the LNG facilities as a solution to the country's energy needs. If numerous LNG terminals are built, their lifespan would be between 30 and 50 years and that would tie the country to fossil fuels for years to come, he said.


Energy companies counter that natural gas is a cleaner and more efficient fuel than oil.


Shell said Gulf Landing would "deliver a new source of clean burning energy critical to the Louisiana and U.S. economies."


Besides the legal action, the Gumbo Alliance plans to apply pressure on Shell and other LNG companies by rallying public opinion and getting legislators on its side, said Darryl Malek-Wiley with the Delta Chapter of the Sierra Club.


"We're in this for the long haul," he said.


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