Hollywood stars on a mission to stop BHP gas rig off Malibu coast

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The Independent Online

BHP Billiton, the oil and mining conglomerate, is used to facing tough environmental opposition to its work across the globe, but the company may not have bargained for its latest opponent: James Bond.

The former 007 actor Pierce Brosnan is heading a mission to halt the construction of a $800m (£420m) gas platform off the coast of Malibu, west of Los Angeles, which he says will be a health hazard and terrorist target.

And he has signed up some of Hollywood's hottest stars to the campaign, with Tom Hanks, Barbra Streisand, Cher, Cindy Crawford and Sting among those putting their names to his last-minute plea to the governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"This proposed liquefied natural gas terminal is part of a globalised assault taking place on our earth," Brosnan said at a recent fundraising event for the campaign. "We cannot let this project be approved." He will speak again tomorrow at an outdoor screening of Al Gore's global warming film, An Inconvenient Truth.

BHP Billiton first applied for permission to build the LNG terminal three years ago, and final approval from the state and federal governments could come early next year, subject to public hearings on an environmental impact report due out soon.

Brosnan and his celebrity supporters argue that smog from the floating facility will cause asthma in Los Angeles, and that the facility is at risk of exploding when the LNG is converted from its liquid state back into a gas. Tankers bringing the liquid to the facility could be a terrorist target, he says.

Brosnan's wife, the actor Keely Shaye Smith, echoed her husband's concern in an interview with The Malibu Times. "It is worrisome that the White House is playing a key role in approving support [for the LNG air quality permit]," she said.

BHP Billiton cautioned that Mr Brosnan may not have the support of all the celebrity names he claims, and believes it will get the permissions to go ahead with the project.

The project is a vital part of the solution to California's energy crisis, a BHP spokesman said, and when up and running in 2011 will be able to supply 15 per cent of the state's current daily consumption of gas.

California relies mainly on gas from Canada and the Gulf of Mexico, whereas BHP Billiton proposes shipping LNG mainly from Australia. "If you are against fossil fuels, then we can't argue that you are going to like our project. But LNG is the cleanest fossil fuel, and people who want cleaner air should want this operation," the spokesman said.

Meanwhile, BP confirmed it was pressing ahead with a $3bn investment in one of its refineries in the US Midwest, enabling it to increase production of gasoline at the site by 15 per cent.