3/17/04 Eureka City Council Continues
Meeting On LNG To Thursday
by Leann Whitten
The Eureka Reporter
Approximately 1,000 people attended Tuesday night's City Council meeting held at the Municipal Auditorium to hear LNG discussion. The Eureka City Council continued its public hearing and consideration of its decision regarding an exclusive right to negotiate agreement between the city and Calpine Corp. — a San Jose-based independent power producer — at its Tuesday night meeting.
Of the more than 200 speakers who signed up to speak Tuesday night, about half got to speak before a 10:15 p.m. decision to continue the meeting was made. Councilwoman Mary Beth Wolford made a motion to continue the public hearing, but limit it to two hours on Thursday night, starting at 6 p.m. at the Municipal Auditorium.
The 107 residents on the list will have priority in that time to make their 3-minute comment to the council. Then the council will deliberate.
A clear majority of speakers spoke in favor of suspending the decision until a “truly independent” report can be conducted or terminating any consideration at all at Tuesday night’s meeting.
The Eureka Fire Department estimates that roughly 1,000 people filled the auditorium at the beginning of the 6 p.m. meeting.
Calpine is considering proposing a facility that would receive exports — via tanker at a Samoa Peninsula location — of liquefied natural gas, heat it back to its gaseous state and distribute it via pipeline to the Central Valley. Energy from the plant would also power a power plant that Calpine may propose to build for the area.
The council has three options: suspend a decision on the ERTN until “such a time that a memorandum of understanding and associated independent review process can be defined and approved by the county of Humboldt, the city of Eureka and the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District; or approve an amended ERTN with Calpine and adopt a specific list of council concerns and issues to be forwarded to an independent review committee for formal deliberation and inclusion in an independent report process,” according to a staff report.
Eureka Police Chief Dave Douglas who stood to the side most of the night only stepped in once when one man went over his 3-minute general public comment and refused to forgo the microphone.
City Manager David Tyson gave the staff report to the council on its options, adding a third option on Tuesday night.
“The City Council approves the ERTN, as amended, between the city of Eureka and Calpine Corp. and authorizes the mayor to execute the agreement subject to the approval of an memorandum of understanding between the county of Humboldt, the city of Eureka and the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District. In addition, the City Council further directs that the listing of issues and concerns be forwarded to an Independent Review Committee for formal deliberation and inclusion in an Independent Report process."
Calpine representative Ken Abreu followed with a 10-minute presentation.
“We are not asking you to make a judgment on the project,” Abreu said. “(We’re asking) do you want to consider it?”
A loud “no” was the reply from the audience.
Mayor Peter La Vallee and other councilmembers reiterated the importance of respecting all speakers despite their viewpoints at this point and several times throughout the night.
Abreu said the project could be a huge opportunity for economic development in Humboldt County, but acknowledged there were legitimate concerns involved.
“We only ask that you get the facts,” he said. Abreu said he has 2,100 names of Eureka residents who have expressed support, among businesses and other organization endorsements.
Eureka resident Barry Evans said he was undecided on whether the project is a fit for Humboldt Bay.
“I don’t believe we have the answers yet to these concerns,” Evans said.
President of the Humboldt Watershed Council Mark Lovelace said the matter facing the council is a question of the future, not feasibility.
“When have you ever had this many people for a good idea,” Arcata Mayor Bob Ornelas asked the council, which he told to reject the ERTN and any consideration of a LNG facility.
Eureka resident Rex Bohn said he wants to see job opportunities available in the area for his son.
“If we don’t at least look at an independent report … (it would be) a grave injustice to our future,” he said. “There may be other resource-based opportunities … but we won’t know that without studies.”
“I don’t want to see the view of the bay damaged, but I do want to keep the window open (to opportunity),” Bohn said.
Northcoast Environmental Center Director Tim McKay reported he had 3,500 signatures opposing LNG on Humboldt Bay “and counting.”
Other residents alluded to more of a fight if the city chooses to enter into the ERTN, as well.
Fortuna resident Dorothy Iversen said she and many generations before her have seen Humboldt change, and change is inevitable. She, as a few others, said the strong opposition in attendance Tuesday night wasn’t necessarily representative of Eureka.
“The loudest voices are not always the most accurate.”