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California Officials Tour LNG Sites In Asia, Australia-Report

The Wall Street Journal: California Officials Tour LNG Sites In Asia, Australia-Report

“Four of the firms have contributed a total of $250,000 in political funds to Schwarzenegger, the Times reported.” (including “Royal Dutch Shell”)

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

Posted 3 August 04

LOS ANGELES (AP)–Top officials in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration toured liquefied natural gas sites in Asia and Australia with energy executives seeking to build fuel terminals along the California coast, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.

The 11-day trip last month included briefings, meals and receptions with Australian and South Korean government officials, as well as stays at an upscale hotel and a yacht tour. But the focus was liquefied natural gas facilities.

An important fuel in Asia for years, energy companies have recently explored importing the gas to the West Coast but have met resistance from city officials and residents who fear the facilities pose a safety risk.

The trip was a chance for officials to learn more about the fuel as the state grapples with proposals to build terminals, said Mike Chrisman, state secretary for resources.

“It’s important to put the trip in context,” Chrisman told the Los Angeles Times. “It was a great primer. Talking to the people who handle this on a daily basis – it was very helpful.”

Also joining the delegation were Terry Tamminen, secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency; Marybel Batjer, cabinet Secretary representing the governor; and Joseph F. Desmond, deputy resources secretary for energy.

Executives from BHP Billiton (BHP), Calpine (CPN), ChevronTexaco (CVX), Sempra Energy (SRE), Royal Dutch Shell (RD, SC) and Edison International’s (EIX) Southern California Edison also came. Four of the firms have contributed a total of $250,000 in political funds to Schwarzenegger, the Times reported.

Critics said the trip gave oil companies close contact to the same officials who could decide their project’s fate.

“It’s just unbelievable access,” said Bill Powers, chairman of the Border Power Plant Working Group, a nonprofit group that addresses energy and environmental issues. “I can’t imagine that the state hierarchy wasn’t aware that it was going to cause some heartburn if this became public.”

The trip was sponsored by the California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy, a nonprofit group that plans conferences and tours focusing on major issues facing the state.

Although the delegation didn’t meet with overseas environmental groups, Tamminen said officials have just begun their research.

“Just to be honest, this was obviously intended to be the beginning of a process, not the entire process, and, therefore, it wasn’t well-rounded,” Tamminen said. “I think people read way too much into this one trip.”

Before the trip, Chrisman and Tamminen met in Sacramento with opponents concerned about liquefied natural gas projects. Chrisman said state officials are planning public workshops in coastal communities.

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