Two key state agencies are divided on whether to approve California's first liquefied natural gas import terminal. Their difference centers on the environmental impacts of the terminal proposed by the Australian mining giant BHP Billiton off the Ventura County Coast. Despite some environmental impacts, the staff of the State Lands Commission has recommended to its commissioners that they approve the terminal. Paul Thayer, agency executive officer, said the project "seems like a reasonable way" for the state to obtain natural gas it will need to meet growing energy demand. The Lands Commission is set to consider approving both the environmental impact report and the lease of state land for a pipe-line from the floating terminal to the onshore gas distribution system April 9 in Oxnard. Meanwhile, the staff of the California Coastal Commission recommends that its commissioners find the proposed terminal inconsistent with the state coastal zone management plan. The commission is slated to consider the project under the Coastal Zone Management Act on April 12 when it meets in Santa Barbara. In a report, coastal agency staff objected that the terminal would emit unacceptable levels of air pollution, including smog-forming pollutants and greenhouse gases. The commission staff credited the company with making changes that would partly ameliorate the expected impacts of the project on marine life. Yet it noted that terminal equipment and ships would kill marine life by using 3 billion gallons of seawater a year and also disturb habitat for thousands of species in an area near the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. The split comes amid a rising chorus of opposition, criticism, and investigation of the proposed terminal by elected officials and community activists. "I want to make it very clear, the BHP terminal is the wrong project at the wrong time for California," stated Assemblymember Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys). "California is headed in a vastly different direction than it was four years ago, and that direction is toward green, clean, and renewable energy sources." In Washington, Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) stepped up his investigation into whether BHP wielded political influence over the federal Environmental Protection Agency to win exemption from federal Clean Air Act requirements (Circuit, March 9, 2007). In March 30 letters, Waxman asked the company to supply documents concerning contacts with the EPA and the White House on the project. His letters came just days before the U.S. Coast Guard held a noisy public hearing in Oxnard on April 4 that effectively closed the federal record on the license application for the terminal. That record soon goes to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters. She must decide whether to license construction of the project under the federal Deepwater Port Act within 90 days. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has 45 days to make a recommendation to her on the project.