Court Sides With Rio Grande Valley Communities in the Fight Against Brownsville Fracked Gas Export Terminals

August 4, 2021: Earlier this week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) failed to conduct an adequate analysis of the climate and environmental justice impacts of two fracked gas export terminals proposed for the lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas, violating both the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Natural Gas Act. The court remanded without vacatur. 

The ruling comes in response to a legal challenge filed by the Sierra Club, the city of Port Isabel, Vecinos para el Bienestar de la Comunidad Costera (a group of local residents from Laguna Heights), and local group Save RGV from LNG, to FERC’s November approval of the Rio Grande LNG and Texas LNG facilities, as well as the now-canceled Annova LNG facility.

The DC Circuit agreed with our argument that FERC failed to adequately assess the impact of the projects' greenhouse gas emissions because it neglected to respond to the argument that it was required to use the social cost of carbon or other “methods generally accepted in the scientific community” to assess the GHG emissions' effects.

Additionally, the court found FERC’s environmental justice analysis to be inadequate. FERC had defined the "affected community" as extending 2 miles from the facilities, which was arbitrary in light of the fact that FERC had determined that project impacts would occur up to 31 miles away. FERC offered no explanation of the discrepancy.

If built, these gas export facilities would threaten local tourism and fishing industries and put low-income Latinx residents in nearby neighborhoods at disproportionate risk of health impacts from dangerous air pollution. 

Sierra Club worked in close partnership with community group Vecinos para el Bienestar de la Comunidad Costera, represented by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid. Sierra Club’s work has been led by Gulf Coast Campaign representative Bekah Hinojosa and Environmental Law Program senior attorney Nathan Matthews with support from other ELP staff, including legal assistants Cassidy Lang and Meral Basit, and attorneys Elly Benson, Matthew Miller, and Nathaniel Shoaff.