All posts by filchyboy

The Climate Action Team Has A Weak Link?

Last month at Florida’s “Serve to Preserve” global warming summit in Miami, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger lauded Florida Governor Charlie Crist for adopting California’s new Low Carbon Fuel Standard vehicle emissions standards. Florida is the 12th state to adopt California’s new standards for lowering carbon in fuels. In May Governor Schwarzenegger in Toronto, Ontario as part of a three-day trade mission to strengthen California’s political and economic ties with Canada signed an agreement with Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty joining California and Ontario in fighting global warming and committing Ontario to a low carbon fuel standard and emissions targets. In June these same standards were endorsed by Presidential contender Barack Obama.

Aside from driving his Hummer about town Schwarzenegger is generally lauded as an environmentalist.  He gets both positive and negative reviews for his efforts and has even received an award: the Australian Banksia International Award for his environmental work. So what is the Climate Action Team and why does it have a weak link?  And what does this group of super heroes have to do with the intrepid Governor Schwarzenegger?

On June 1st of 2005 Governor Schwarzenegger signed Executive Order #S-3-05.  Touted far and wide as a landmark decision which set greenhouse gas targets for the state of California (By 2010, Reduce to 2000 Emission Levels – By 2020, Reduce to 1990 Emission Levels – By 2050, Reduce to 80 percent Below 1990 Levels).

To meet the targets, the Governor directed the Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency to coordinate with the Secretary of the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, Secretary of the Department of Food and Agriculture, Secretary of the Resources Agency, Chairperson of the Air Resources Board, Chairperson of the Energy Commission and President of the Public Utilities Commission .

The Secretary of CalEPA will lead a Climate Action Team made up of representatives from the agencies listed above to implement global warming emission reduction programs and report on the progress made toward meeting the statewide greenhouse gas targets that were established in the executive order.

Per the Executive Order, the first report to the Governor and the Legislature was released in March 2006 and will be issued bi-annually thereafter.

If you read through the links above you’ll find that the Climate Action Team continues to meet and produce reports.  Pay special attention to the membership list of the Climate Action Team as it pertains to a letter to the editor of the Santa Monica Daily Breeze which Jane Harman (D-CA) recently wrote.

Let’s not invite terrorists to LAX
Proposed LNG terminal would make the already attractive LAX and even bigger target of terrorist ambitions.
By Jane Harman

The South Bay has many attractions that lure people here from all over the world. Whether it is our sun, sand, surf, celebrities or movie studios, the vast majority of visitors will enter through our region’s international gateway: Los Angeles International Airport.

The fifth-busiest passenger airport and sixth-busiest cargo airport in the world, since 1974, LAX has been the target of two bombings, two attempted bombings (including the Millennium Bomber) and a fatal handgun attack.

Although LAX officials have implemented some important security measures after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, such as creating an on-site bomb squad and screening all baggage, the airport is still considered the top terrorist target in California.

Unfortunately, a proposal before the city of Los Angeles would place a floating liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in Santa Monica Bay just off the coast of LAX. 

Natural gas would be transported from a submersible terminal through pipelines along the ocean floor to landfall along the airport’s edge. 

The proposal by Australian-owned Woodside Natural Gas, dubbed the OceanWay Secure Energy project, is just one of several for LNG terminals along the West Coast. Although LNG is likely an important part of California’s energy future, unlike the other proposed projects, this is the only one that would place a new natural gas supply adjacent to a major terrorist target.

Locating a natural gas terminal next to LAX when alternate sites exist brings to mind the David Bowie lyric “putting out fire with gasoline.”

To do so would make this already attractive target even more attractive, since such an attack could not only cause loss of life but also cripple air traffic nationally, interrupt fuel supplies for California and disrupt the regional economy.

In June, four men were indicted in New York on suspicion that they planned to blow up a system of jet fuel tanks that supply JFK airport through a network of pipelines. These pipelines are buried below the streets serving densely populated areas.

A similar underground network exists in Los Angeles to deliver natural gas to homes and businesses.

Although no explosives had been purchased to carry out the JFK plot, the suspects conducted extensive surveillance of the airport, and there is evidence that they attempted to reach out to other al Qaida-inspired terrorists.

Had their attack succeeded, the focus would now be on fuel supplies and pipelines in and around airports across America.

Thankfully, the plot was foiled.

But we must be vigilant about the threat of a similar plot at our largest airport.

In an era of loosely affiliated, horizontally connected terrorist groups, the possibility of an attack on U.S. soil is highly likely. We should be doing everything in our power to reduce risk – not adding lighter fluid to the barbecue.

Let’s not make the bull’s-eye on LAX’s back even bigger.

Now in her seventh term, South Bay Rep. Jane Harman leads the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing & Terrorism Risk Assessment.

I wasn’t aware when I read Jane Harman’s letter that this was a project in the planning.  Although I don’t know much about this I can certainly see how concern about a terrorist attack on a fuel facility might make authorities, such as Harman, think twice about such projects.  So I filed this away as a potentially useful and potentially dangerous project in the works locally and to keep my eyes open and ears peeled for more information.

Then a few days later I came across a response to Jane Harman by Steve Larson, the CEO of Woodside (the company behind the project) also published in the Daily Breeze.

Ocean gas plan is smart, safe
Natural gas supplier promises to ensure LNG operation is environmentally safe and secure.
By Steve Larson

As Southern California’s population continues to grow, it will be critical for us to secure the energy to heat and power our businesses and homes and run clean transportation. Most of us use natural gas every day. We cannot afford another energy crisis or skyrocketing prices for electricity and heating, so we need to look for new and better ways to address our growing energy demand.

California is an international leader in clean energy and has made an unparalleled commitment to using conservation, energy efficiency and renewables as the first source of supply, with support from clean natural gas to ensure a reliable electrical system and replace dirty coal generation.

California has chosen natural gas as the preferred energy source for heating, cooking and fueling critical industries, and as the preferred power source over nuclear, coal and dams. However, California produces only 15 percent of its needs today, and it is the last stop on the country’s natural gas pipeline system.

It relies on other states and Canada to provide the other 85 percent of its gas supply, and it faces unprecedented competition for that gas from Arizona, New Mexico and other fast-growing states as well as the Northeast and Canada. Meanwhile, the California Energy Commission reports that North American natural gas production is declining, and gas is becoming even more expensive.

Competition for limited natural gas supplies is not theoretical. Prices are twice what they were in 2001 with no end in sight – unless California can secure a new supply of natural gas.

Fortunately, good options do exist. One is OceanWay, a proposed offshore project that would safely import the liquefied natural gas we need to power California’s booming economy and hold down heating and electricity costs in the region. OceanWay has been designed to comply with all U.S. and international standards to protect public safety and our environment.

The project could supply 15 percent of California’s natural gas needs.

We know that safety is just as important as maintaining an affordable supply of natural gas. Though South Bay Rep. Jane Harman raised concerns about our project’s proximity to Los Angeles International Airport in a recent opinion piece in the Daily Breeze, the thorough public review process will demonstrate that the OceanWay project is safe, and Woodside Natural Gas is making further unprecedented commitments to satisfy community concerns.

Unique among proposed natural gas projects, OceanWay’s offshore delivery point would be 28 miles from Los Angeles and

5 miles beyond the shipping lanes – far from population centers and maritime traffic.

OceanWay’s specially designed ships would connect to two submerged buoys and would convert liquefied natural gas on board to natural gas – just like you use in your home – before delivering it to underwater pipelines to shore.

Woodside Natural Gas has worked closely with the Coast Guard to meet its requirements for security at the buoys and for ships in transit. Woodside recently committed to U.S. staffing and flagging of the OceanWay regasification ships.

Once the underwater pipelines cross the shore deep beneath the beach, they would continue a short distance under Westchester Parkway and connect with the existing network of the Southern California Gas Co., a safe pipeline system that has served millions of residents, businesses and industries for decades. OceanWay’s 4-mile buried pipeline would represent a small addition to the more than 90,000 miles of natural gas pipelines that already crisscross Southern California.

Unlike existing facilities elsewhere, OceanWay would have no storage facilities onshore.

Before OceanWay is approved, it will undergo a rigorous environmental and safety review process that mandates community input – a process we wholeheartedly support and welcome.

Government agencies and bipartisan elected leaders, like Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, have said California needs more natural gas, and they have stated their support for an offshore portal to provide a new source of supply.

OceanWay Secure Energy is the best proposal by far to import that gas. The project offers an unprecedented commitment to public safety, environmental protection and energy security. With ships located so far offshore most of us will never know they’re there, OceanWay represents the best opportunity for California to plan today for the energy we will need tomorrow.

Steve Larson is the former executive director of the California Public Utilities Commission and the California Energy Commission. He now serves as president of Woodside Natural Gas in Santa Monica.

I initially found this to be a very cogent response.  Impressive as his response may be though it still felt as though it was a bit lacking on a direct response to Harman’s safety concerns. 

For instance I recall during the JFK LNG plot which was foiled earlier in the year there was some argument over whether the plotters would have been able to ignite the entire LNG system or if such an attack would simply take out one portion of the system.  So for the OceanWay project it seems reasonable to ask the same question.  If there was an accident or terrorist attack on the facility 28 miles off the coast would it be localized or would the explosion rip through the entire pipeline onto the mainland?  I don’t know.

One thing I regularly do though is research the bios of people who write op-eds, letters to the editors etc.  I often find it a very useful exercise.  It’s amazing sometimes the whack jobs who get their stuff published in newspapers.

It turns out that Steve Larson, as noted in the letter he wrote, was formally the head of the California Public Utilities Commission but he’s also a member of the Climate Action Team delegated by the Governor to cut the state’s greenhouse gas emissions:

In the U.S., our greenhouse gas emissions come mostly from energy use. These are driven largely by economic growth, fuel used for electricity generation, and weather patterns affecting heating and cooling needs. Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, resulting from petroleum and natural gas, represent 82 percent of total U.S. human-made greenhouse gas emissions.

Here’s Mr. Larson’s bio from the Climate Action Team website:

Steve Larson currently serves as Executive Director of the California Public Utilities Commission. Under the direction of the President of the Commission, Mr. Larson is responsible for the overall administration of the 800 employees of the PUC. The five member Commission is responsible for private utility energy rate setting and regulation, as well as renewable energy and energy conservation/efficiency. Besides energy related rate setting, the Commission also sets the rates and regulates telecommunication utilities, water utilities, and safety aspects of the rail industry. The Commission also has principal responsibility for representing the state before FERC and the FCC.

Perhaps the maintainer of the Climate Action Team website is simply running 4 months behind in updating the site. 

On April 12, 2007, the PUC announced that Paul Clanon was named Executive Director, effective May 1, 2007.


Or perhaps Mr. Larson is actually wearing two hats and is working actively to bring greenhouse gases into the state through his OceanWay project while simultaneously serving as a member of the board delegated with the task of cutting greenhouse gases. 

I’d like to think the former.