On company participants is a proposes Gulf of Mexico superport have told Secretary of Transportation William T. Coleman Jr. that they cannot agree to conditions for licenses he announced Dec. 17.
A spokesman for the Department of Transportation said Coleman plans to sign the licenses next Monday, however, without any modifications. Because the superport owners then will have 90 days in which to accept or reject the licenses, the controversy apparently will become one of the first transport issues to be faced by the Carter administration and incoming DOT Secretary Brock Adams.
Two groups of oil firms have proposed Gulf superports, which would be the first U.S. marine facilities capable of handling huge supertankers built to carry crude oil.
Seadock, Inc., has proposed a superport 26 miles off Freeport, Tex., and Loop Inc., has proposed a similar facility 18 miles off Grand Isle, La. Coleman granted both licenses but imposed restrictions designed to deal with potential oil spills and access to the ports by all shippers.
Exxon Corp., the world's largest industrial corporation and the largest single owner of Seadock (20 per cent), told Coleman this week that it would not proceed with the project under his restrictions. Other owners of Seadock are Cities Service Co., Continental Oil Co., Crown Central Petroleum, Gulf Oil Corp., Mobil Corp., Phillips Petroleum, Shell Oil Co. and Dow Chemical Co.
In a letter to Coleman, Exxon USA president Randall Meyer said his major concerns include requirements "that Seadock be liable for negligence of government agencies, that Seadock's owners be required to guarrantee major obligations "completely disregarding the financial viability of Seadock as a separate corporate entity," that DOT become involved in regulation of the port and connecting pipelines already subject to Interstate Commerce Commission jurisdiction and that DOT have the power to force Seadock to expand capacity by up to 25 per cent.
Exxon Corp. and its pipeline subsidiary "will not be able to participate in the project if the license is issued in its present form," Meyer stated.
Gulf Oil also told Coleman that his restrictions "would make the economic risk of this project too great to justify investment."
Seadock and Loop sent separate letters to Coleman seeking changes in the language of the licenses. Coop is owned by Shell, Ashland, Marathon, Murphy, Texaco and Union Oil companies.
A spokesman for Loop in New Orleans said his group had make no final decision on the Coleman license but said "some improvements" could be made in the draft language to eliminate potential misunderstandings. Loop cited potential duplicative regulation by DOT and the ICC as well as the required expansion sections as objectionable.
At his confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee last week, Secretary-designate Adams said he understands that Coleman's license terms would be "irrevocable . . . it would be up to the individual consortia to determine whether or not they wish to accept the offer."
If Seadock or Loop turns down Coleman's terms, the Deepwater Port Act of 1974 permits new applications from the groups and any others, Adams said. He expressed concern that Seadock and Loop would be controlled by user oil companies, however, and noted that priority under the law must be given applications from a state or independent terminal company - a possible indication that Adams would favor such an approach.
The city and port of Galveston, Tex., have proposed building a publicly owned, onshore superport that supporters contend would be cheaper to construct than Seadock.