French Firm Engie’s Deal With Rio Grande LNG Contradicts Climate Concerns, Locks France Into Fracked Gas Until 2041


Courtney Naquin,

Brownsville, Texas - Despite the escalating climate crisis caused by the global over-reliance on fossil fuels, the state-backed French company Engie made a 15-year deal with NextDecade to import 1.75 million metric tons per year of fracked gas from Rio Grande LNG, an export terminal proposed for South Texas. While Engie scrapped its original deal with Rio Grande LNG in 2020 because of the French government’s environmental concerns over hydraulic fracking in Texas, Engie has apparently reversed course despite the persistence of those same environmental concerns. 

Rio Grande LNG still faces several hurdles, domestic and foreign, before it can be constructed. Even with Engie’s deal, the facility has not yet reached a final investment decision (FID). The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is currently reevaluating Rio Grande LNG’s potential climate emissions and impacts to environmental justice communities after initially failing to conduct an adequate analysis. The project is also the focus of an active lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers for issuing the facility a water pollution permit that threatens the Rio Grande Valley’s wetlands and local fishing and shrimping economy. Meanwhile, French bank Société Générale is facing robust public pressure to drop its support for the project. 

If built, Rio Grande LNG and the associated Rio Bravo pipeline would pollute low-income and Latinx communities of the Rio Grande Valley region, harm the local shrimping and fishing industry, irreparably damage the Laguna Atascosa wildlife refuge, threaten numerous endangered species like the ocelot, and destroy pristine lands sacred to the Carrizo/Comecrudo Tribe of Texas. Rio Grande LNG never consulted with the Tribe, who opposes the project. 

Lorette Philippot, Private Finance Campaign Director for Friends of the Earth France, issued the following statement:

“This deal perfectly exemplifies the French government’s hypocrisy and insincere promises regarding the climate and energy crisis. Engie’s board decided against signing onto a contract like this because of environmental concerns, just to walk back their decision today by actively or implicitly greenlighting the project. While President Emmanual Macron attempted to ‘green up’ his public image while campaigning for his second term that began just a few days ago, this contract to import fracked gas is a terrible sign of what’s to come in the next five years. With Engie and Société Générale’s support, the government is burying France’s and Europe’s climate goals.”

Rebekah Hinojosa, Gulf Coast Campaign Representative for Sierra Club, issued the following statement:

“The situation has not changed in the two years that Engie had dropped the deal with NextDecade: fracking is still destructive to the climate and if Rio Grande LNG is built it would be the biggest emitter of toxic pollution that threatens public health and the environment in the Rio Grande Valley region. NextDecade’s carbon capture and sequestration plans are a scam that won’t reduce Rio Grande LNG’s harmful pollution, and does nothing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions when the gas is fracked, produced, exported overseas, and burned. By reviving their deal with Rio Grande LNG, Engie is working against France’s climate initiatives while also poisoning our South Texas community.”

Tom Gosselin, Attorney with Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign, issued the following statement: 

“Engie’s deal with NextDecade is nonsensical. The Rio Grande LNG project still faces considerable legal risk regarding its environmental and climate impacts and this deal does nothing to reduce that risk. There is good reason to think that this project will never actually get off the ground. While NextDecade tries to suggest that its projects are solutions to the climate crisis and to support Europe during the humanitarian crisis in the Ukraine, they are certainly neither. Rio Grande LNG will dangerously increase global greenhouse gas emissions and do nothing to help those suffering in Europe, as it takes several years to construct these massive facilities and no new gas export infrastructure in the US is actually needed to supply Europe with gas. This deal is nothing more than misguided greed seeking to exploit terrible crises that will lead to much more harm than good.”

Juan Mancias, Chair, Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas, issued the following statement:

“The Engie contract with the destructive Rio Grande LNG project commits France to ongoing colonization and genocide of Native peoples and destruction of our homelands. As the planet burns from climate catastrophe accelerated by five centuries of colonization, France continues its history of exploiting Native lands for its own wealth and benefit. France banned fracking in its own land, yet France chooses to invest in fracking of lands that do not belong to them. We oppose Rio Grande LNG and oppose Engie’s commitment to Rio Grande LNG which would desecrate and destroy a sacred site. The genocide of Native people needs to stop. Fracking, toxic disposal wells, pipelines, and gas exports need to be stopped because they not only threaten the environment, but also are direct attacks on the Native and original people of the land by denying us access to our sacred sites.”

About the Sierra Club

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