FERC Acts Against South Texas Communities Once Again in Fast Tracking Carbon Capture and Storage Project for Rio Grande LNG


Courtney Naquin, courtney.naquin@sierraclub.org

Brownsville, Texas - Weeks after NextDecade started clear-cutting land for its fracked gas export terminal, Rio Grande LNG, in the Rio Grande Valley, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) made steps towards speeding through its review of the proposed Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) project. Despite being an unproven  technology for LNG projects,  FERC announced that it will draft an insufficient Environmental Assessment (EA) for Rio Grande LNG’s CCS facility rather than the comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) the community demanded.

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 export terminals.

As of Monday, October 31, Rio Grande LNG has begun clear-cutting with tractors and heavy machinery. The Rio Grande LNG project site contains wetlands, habitat, and lands sacred to the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas. Last Month, Carrizo Comecrudo Tribal Chairman Juan Mancias hand-delivered a cease and desist letter to staff clear-cutting lands that are sacred to the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas and another letter to the Port of Brownsville.

FERC’s announcement and Rio Grande LNG’s clear-cutting come at a precarious time for the Rio Grande LNG project. The fracked gas terminal is currently facing uncertainty in securing buyers of the gas, a delay in reaching a final investment decision, an additional review by FERC, a lawsuit challenging their Army Corps of Engineers 404 Clean Water Act Permit, and tremendous local opposition.

“FERC is fast-tracking through the review process to approve a capture and sequestration technology, which is untested and unproven for LNG projects and is known to fail, for fracked gas at the expense of our community,” said Emma Guevara, Sierra Club Brownsville Organizer. “Our community is still in a drought, and carbon capture facilities tend to use excessive amounts of water. This is not a risk we should take. We don’t want Rio Grande LNG because the gas plant would pollute our community, and we definitely don’t want to be test subjects for carbon capture at LNG export facilities.”

“Rio Grande LNG would release air pollution that harms the health of our Tribal people, the wildlife, and destroys the climate,” said Juan Mancias, Tribal chairman for the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas. “It is infuriating to see that FERC is once again siding with the gas industry by speeding up approval for a carbon capture sequestration project for LNG that will destroy our ancestral lands and threaten our sacred sites. We haven’t ever, and will never, give our consent to fracked gas and its associated projects like CCS to develop here.”  

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