Gov. Kathleen Blanco late
on May 5 vetoed a proposed offshore natural gas port over concerns that fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico could be harmed. Blanco had until May 7 to file any objections to a proposed federal license for the Main Pass Energy Hub, a liquefied natural gas terminal being sought by Freeport McMoRan Energy LLC, a subsidiary of New Orleans-based McMoRan Exploration Co.
"Until studies demonstrate that the operation of the open rack vaporizer will not have an unacceptable impact on the surrounding ecosystem, I will only support LNG terminals using a closed loop system having negligible impacts to marine life," Blanco said in a letter sent on May 5 to Julie A. Nelson, acting deputy maritime administrator and chief counsel for the U.S. Department of Transportation. Officials at Freeport McMoRan, said they were disappointed by the governor's decision. Only one LNG port exists in the Gulf but several other ports are proposed off Louisiana's coast. Blanco acknowledged that several industry sources assured the state that the use of the proposed technology would minimally impact the environment and fisheries. But she said those assurances were not supported by any "persuasive scientific studies or data." The companies behind the projects, including McMoRan, Shell and ConocoPhillips (COP)
, want to use a technology that uses billions of gallons of Gulf seawater annually to warm the gas, which is shipped by tanker in a supercooled state. So far, the companies have resisted calls to adopt a more expensive technology that uses far less seawater. McMoRan said that the project's annual economic impact will be $85.6m, and that it will produce as many as 900 jobs over a three-year design and construction period. The terminal would be located about 16 miles east of the mouth of the Mississippi River in 210 feet of water. The facility would unload up to 350 billion cubic feet of imported fuel annually. (Source: Biloxi Sun Herald)