Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Receives Major Public Push Back to Rio Grande LNG Carbon Capture and Storage Facility


Courtney Naquin,  courtney.naquin@sierraclub.org

 Emma Guevara, emma.guevara@sierraclub.org

Brownsville - Yesterday, members of the public across Texas submitted over 200 comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) during the scoping process for the Rio Grande LNG’s proposal for a carbon capture storage facility and pipeline in Cameron County. The Sierra Club, together with the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas, the City of Port Isabel, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, on behalf of their clients Vecinos para la bienestar de la comunidad costera, and other organizations, submitted technical comments that highlighted that the CCS project would fail to capture the majority of greenhouse gas emissions and CCS is not a solution to climate change. With or without CCS, Rio Grande LNG would be a massive gas plant spewing the largest amounts of greenhouse gas emissions and toxic pollution in the Rio Grande Valley region of Texas.  

Environmental groups and community members call on FERC to examine Rio Grande LNG’s CCS application more thoroughly and take into account the region’s cumulative environmental issues. Rio Grande LNG’s CCS would also require massive amounts of water to operate, while the  Rio Grande Valley is facing a severe water shortage due to droughts and intense heat waves. Additionally, FERC needs to re-analyze the entire Rio Grande LNG and Rio Bravo project and do additional scoping and a thorough environmental justice analysis.

In addition to a 30-day comment period, the FERC hosted a meeting in Port Isabel, TX, for the public to give oral comments about the CCS proposal as part of the scoping process. Opponents of the project criticized the FERC's public meeting format because it did not allow residents to hear others' oral comments or receive more information about the project. Frontline community members also met with the FERC's Office of Public Participation staff last Monday to drive the need for meaningful engagement with the public about issues affecting their communities. They discussed a more straightforward comment process, a town hall formatted meeting, Spanish language access, consultation with Tribal Nations, and more. FERC’s scoping process officially closed on October 3, and the commission’s next step is determining whether to draft an environmental impact statement for a shorter environmental assessment for the project.

The Rio Grande Valley community opposes the LNG and the carbon capture storage facility for Rio Grande LNG. Last year, public pressure stopped the Cameron County commissioners from sending a letter supporting the CCS proposal to the Department of Energy. Carbon capture technology has yet to be applied to any gas export facilities in the U.S and has been unsuccessful for other fossil fuel projects. Rio Grande LNG has partnered with the Mitsubishi company for its clean carbon storage facility. But Mitsubishi failed at a previous attempt to capture carbon for coal plants because of cost and technology problems. CCS remains an untested and unproven technology for LNG. 

“The Rio Grande Valley has opposed Rio Grande LNG for years. We’ve been demanding that FERC put a stop to Rio Grande LNG all together, not to add on a harmful CCS project to an already destructive fracked gas facility. FERC has made public commitments to prioritizing environmental justice into their analysis of projects, yet their public engagement process made it difficult for community members to even participate and speak with the commision. This barrier to participation is unjust and prohibitive. FERC must redo the public meeting and come up with a better process going forward,” said Emma Guevara, Brownsville Sierra Club organizer.  “FERC needs to acknowledge that CCS is just an elaborate, expensive excuse for Rio Grande LNG to pollute our homes. Our coastline, the sacred lands of the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe, and our vulnerable communities and wildlife should not be sacrificed to the polluting industry when we’ve made it clear that Rio Grande LNG is unwelcome here.

“Rio Grande LNG and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission never consulted with the Tribe, and we never consented to this project. The Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe has been opposed to polluting fracked gas projects on our lands from the start. These projects are an example of continued colonization of Indigenous people and land. This seems like an ongoing attempt at genocidal erasure in South Texas,”said Juan Mancias with the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas. “These are our ancestral lands. Our elders are buried here. Rio Grande LNG would destroy Garcia Pasture, a sacred site to our people that’s recognized internationally by the World Monuments Fund. We deserve to live on our lands in peace without the encroachment of the extractive gas industry.”

About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with millions of members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.