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Calif. panel OKs Chevron marine terminal lease

December 11, 2010

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A state panel on Friday approved Chevron Corp.’s request for a 30-year renewal of its lease for a marine terminal off the Los Angeles County coast where tankers deliver oil by undersea pipes to a refinery on shore.

The 2-1 vote by the California State Lands Commission came despite the objections of environmentalists worried about oil spills and the threat of whales being struck by tankers entering Santa Monica Bay to reach the terminal off the city of El Segundo. Some urged a shorter lease of 10 years.

Supporters of the long-term lease renewal cited the refinery’s key role in supplying gasoline and diesel to Southern California and fuel to nearby Los Angeles International Airport, as well as the company’s importance to the economy.

Chevron will be charged a base rent of about $1.3 million a year with annual adjustments based on the Consumer Price Index.

The refinery and its offshore operations date to 1911. Tankers are a common site in the South Bay, pulling up to mooring sites about 1½ miles offshore where hoses are raised from the sea floor to offload oil through underwater lines to storage tanks beyond the beach.

During a public comment period before the vote, opponents raised the memory of this year’s Gulf of Mexico spill following the explosion of a rig drilling a deep sea well for BP PLC. They also noted that in a few years the terminal will be the last such facility on the California coast.

Some advocated having the oil deliveries rerouted through the Port of Los Angeles, an idea thwarted by the lack of pipeline capability to transfer the oil from the harbor to the refinery.

Chris Thomason, the president of the El Segundo Firefighters Association, drew attention when he told the panel that during more than 30 years of past operations there has never been a drill or training exercise between the El Segundo Fire Department, the Chevron refinery fire department or mutual-aid agencies at the marine terminal. He said his department didn’t even have a boat to reach the terminal area and firefighters had no training in boarding ships or how to safely put out fires on vessels.

Chevron countered that there are plans and coordination with the local fire department and other agencies, and it asserted that any inadequacies involving the role of the local department could be quickly resolved.

The panel also was told that shipboard firefighting on the ocean would not be handled by the local fire department.

The panel, which also approved an environmental impact report through the vote, also heard strong support for the 30-year lease from representatives of business organizations, a regional sportfishing association and some marine biology interests including a small local aquarium that receives funding from Chevron.

El Segundo Mayor Eric Busch said Chevron’s environmental record at the terminal was exemplary.

“For all the oil that has traveled through this terminal over the past decades, Chevron has had only two spills,” he said.

Busch said the spills included 2,400 barrels in 1980 and 200 barrels in 1991, and cleanup operations began immediately.

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