| NEW YORK, March 25
NEW YORK, March 25 The West Coast of the United
States, long a battle ground for industrial and environmental
interests, is set for another round of disputes as the region
attracts key energy projects.
Huge new oil and gas fields have changed the way energy is
transported across the United States, opening up the prospect of
gas exports to Asia and increasing shipments of oil by rail. As
this happens, the West Coast, from California to Washington, has
become a major focus for energy developers.
Veresen Inc's Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas
(LNG) project in Coos Bay, Oregon, received approval from the
Department of Energy on Monday to export gas to needy importers
in Asia. Another project further north, known as Oregon LNG, is
expected to receive similar approval within two months.
The two developments, both of which still need construction
permits, would be the first of their kind on the West Coast
outside of Alaska and represent a potentially new era for the
Unied States, where a drilling boom has pushed output to record
highs. The outcome of these projects could also set the standard
for other energy developments in the region.
But opposition remains.
"Jordan Cove still needs a slew of federal and state permits
to begin construction," said Zack Malitz of San Francisco-based
environmental group Credo, which is opposed to exports because
it could lead to more drilling. "We still have time to sound the
Energy projects have long met opposition in West Coast
states where a stronger environmental lobby has made development
approvals tougher to obtain than in other more oil
industry-friendly states like Texas or Louisiana.
The strength of that opposition is being tested again as
coal and oil producers look to the West Coast to broaden their
In recent years, mining and shipping industries have tried,
and sometimes failed, to gain permission to move coal through
ports in the Pacific Northwest to reach Asian markets. The Port
of Coos Bay dropped its plans for a coal export terminal last
spring after environmental challenges.
Now, three more export terminals remain on the drawing
board. Backers of the Morrow Pacific project in Oregon expect to
clear regulatory hurdles in the coming months.
Meanwhile, oil producers looking to tap west coast markets
have proposed a number of terminals to receive and refine crude
oil delivered on trains. Crude by rail has become a major
industry in recent years, as new output overwhelms the existing
pipeline network. But a number of explosive derailments have
given pause to states considering more train traffic, especially
loads carrying grades of crude oil from North Dakota considered
more volatile than others.
In Washington State, which has the potential to become a
major oil port if all pending projects are approved, opposition
to moving more crude by rail is growing.
Public meetings held in October regarding a crude by rail
terminal in the Port of Vancouver proposed by Tesoro Corp
and Savage Services garnered tens of thousands of
comments, many of which centered on concerns about crude train
crashes and spills.
The project is in the permitting phase, and the final
decision lies with Governor Jay Inslee.
Valero Energy Corp's plan to build an offloading
facility at its San Francisco-area refinery was pushed to the
first quarter of 2015 from late 2013 to allow time for an
environmental review after opponents voiced concerns to local
The surge in the transport of crude oil by rail into
California has caught the attention of lawmakers in Sacramento,
who last week held a hearing to examine whether more resources
should be dedicated to preventing and responding to accidents.
Currently, less than 1 percent of the state's crude oil is
delivered by rail. But with at least six new crude-by-rail
facilities planned or under construction in California, that
figure is expected to reach 25 percent by 2016.
"Regardless of whether it takes two years or four years,
this is a significant change that represents an emerging threat
to California's natural resources," Tom Cullen, administrator of
the Department of Fish and Wildlife's Office of Spill Prevention
and Response, said at the hearing last week.
(Reporting By Edward McAllister in New York, Rory Carroll in
San Francisco, Patrick Rucker in Washington D.C. and Kristen
Hays in Houston; Editing by Joseph Radford)