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“If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull.” That advice, from the late, great comic W. C. Fields, is being zealously applied by Jordan Cove’s Boosters. Most recently Keith Comstock argued that all of Japan’s 30 LNG terminals survived the huge 2011 earthquake-tsunami undamaged, so why should Coos Bay worry? Dick Leshley and Bob Braddock have said that too.

But no matter who said it, it was bull.

When the Big One hit Japan in 2011, that country did have about 30 LNG import terminals, which are potentially dangerous to the public, though not as dangerous as an export terminal like Jordan Cove’s. But only one of those 30 Japanese terminals was at risk. That was the Shin-Minato terminal in Sendai, directly opposite the offshore earthquake’s epicenter. (The melted-down Fukushima nuclear plant was in that same area.) The tsunami destroyed Sendai harbor, tossed ships onto shore as if they were driftwood, and destroyed the Shin-Minato terminal except for its LNG storage tanks. It took until the end of that year to finish the repairs.

What saved the other Japanese LNG terminals from harm? Better locations. Severe as it was, the 2011 quake-tsunami only devastated one third of Japan’s east coast, with very destructive shaking followed by tsunami waves of 25 to 30 feet, and some even higher. But while Tokyo Bay, at the southern end of the affected area, experienced considerable earthquake damage too, it saw tsunamis of only 5.3 feet, so its 5 LNG terminals were not damaged. Tokyo Bay seems to be well-protected by a headland, as are other Japanese harbors and LNG terminals. Many are on Japan’s inland sea, where tsunami waves only reached one or two feet.

Comstock also argues that Newport already has an LNG terminal, so why should Coos Bay worry? Newport’s terminal, known as a "peak-shaving terminal" has a much smaller tank, and no shipping. It stores gas as LNG until times of peak demand, when the LNG is warmed to provide gas to Northwest Natural gas’s local customers. The U.S. has about 100 peak-shaving terminals. Unfortunately the first one ever built exploded in 1944, destroying a square mile of the city of Cleveland, and killing and injuring hundreds. And in 2014, in Plymouth, Washington, one very similar to Newport’s terminal exploded, injuring several and causing the evacuation of the surrounding area, which fortunately was very lightly populated.

Wim de Vriend

Coos Bay

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