About 1,000 people representing all sides of the liquefied natural gas debate crammed a conference room at the Oxnard Performing Arts Center on April 19 for a pair of hearings regarding Australian mining company BHP Billiton’s proposal to place a floating LNG terminal off the coast of Ventura County. The hearings, which also took place in Malibu and Santa Clarita earlier in the week, were sponsored by the California State Lands Commission with the intent of allowing the public to voice their concerns about the draft environmental impact report for the Cabrillo Port project released in March. Nearly 130 speakers addressed the panel, which included representatives of the Lands Commission and the United States Coast Guard. While some attendees at the evening session spoke in favor of BHP Billiton, the overwhelming majority — including Oxnard Mayor Tom Holden, councilmember Tim Flynn, Democratic State Assembly candidate Kelly Hayes-Raitt, members of the Sierra Club, local teachers and one 11-year-old girl — opposed the project and criticized supposed deficiencies in the voluminous 2,500-page report, citing issues ranging from underestimated air pollution projections to the impact on recreational boating. Some were angrier than others: One man, who approached the podium wearing a homemade shirt reading “KILL LNG,” vowed to stop the project even “if it means paddling out on a surfboard to do it.” Officials said all comments will be considered for the final EIR, due later this year.
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