This week, Sierra Club, Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas, City of Port Isabel and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid on behalf of their clients Vecinos para el bienestar de la comunidad costera filed petitions challenging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) over their recent rubber stamping of several LNG export projects in the Gulf Coast: Texas LNG, Rio Grande LNG, and the Rio Bravo Pipeline in South Texas. Additionally, the Sierra Club filed a rehearing challenging Driftwood LNG’s Lines 200 and 300 in Southwest Louisiana. See here for a recording of this morning’s telepresser, featuring South Texas community members.
FERC approved these projects without adequately evaluating the environmental impacts of the projects and amidst widespread community and environmental justice concerns. In 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that FERC failed to conduct an adequate analysis of the climate and environmental justice impacts of Rio Grande LNG and Texas LNG, violating both the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Natural Gas Act. Now, FERC issued orders in response to that case but failed to fix those defects.
FERC also approved construction of the Driftwood LNG pipeline project, Lines 200 and 300, in Southwest Louisiana. Tellurian, the company behind Driftwood LNG and this pipeline system, continues to face significant uncertainty as it struggles to secure contracts and the financial backing needed for construction.
If built, Rio Grande LNG and Texas LNG would be the biggest polluters in the South Texas region and emit as much climate pollution annually as 50 coal plants, damage critical habitats and threaten the health of largely low-income and Latinx, immigrant, and Indigenous communities. All of the communities that are directly impacted by the projects – Port Isabel, South Padre Island, Laguna Vista, and Long Island Village have passed anti-LNG resolutions. These projects are also widely opposed by Laguna Heights residents and the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas.
“FERC issued this remand order without supplementing its flawed NEPA analysis or allowing for adequate public participation. That’s a serious issue here. It’s led to an incomplete administrative record. FERC failed to adequately analyze the projects’ greenhouse gas emissions, which come at a high cost to communities and the climate,” Tom Gosselin, attorney with Sierra Club, said. “We hope that FERC rescinds these orders and takes our concerns and requests seriously and performs a complete and thorough environmental review that’s necessary. Once FERC does, it would become clear that none of these projects are in the public interest, and should ultimately be denied.”
“These projects will have a disproportionate impact on communities that are predominantly Latinx and low-income. FERC seems to have paid no regard to these findings. For decades, industries have been built on the fenceline of low income communities and communities of color. FERC’s own authorization blatantly recognizes that that’s happening again here. It seems to have given FERC no pause to have made this determination,” said Jennifer Richards, attorney with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid. “In skipping over the NEPA process and allowing people to provide robust public comment on the reauthorization of these projects, FERC has denied themselves the opportunity to hear directly from members of the community about the impacts of these projects in addition to environmental concerns that we have.”
“April 20 was like a Pearl Harbor day for us. Not only did we experience the effects of the SpaceX launch and explosion, we were also subject to a sneak attack by FERC. At the very moment that that rocket was exploding, they were restoring the permits to these LNG facilities. These facilities do not meet air quality standards, they do not provide adequate safety to the community - in fact, to this day they have not developed a response safety plan in case there were an incident. With the SpaceX launch, if the rocket had veered closer to our area and any of the debris impacted the LNG facilities - one of which is only a mile away from our area - we could have seen catastrophic effects,” said Jared Hockema, city manager for the City of Port Isabel, “Our local economy relies on fishing and environmental tourism. If we damage these vital natural resources, then we stand to lose thousands and thousands of good paying jobs that sustain our local workforce. For what? For 150 workers that may work at these plants that aren’t even from these areas? This decision reflects FERC’s lack of diligence and lack of examination of this development, and we are calling upon them to reconsider their actions and consider the extreme danger of these facilities.”
“We are fighting against the LNG projects and the false carbon capture process. These fossil fuels are greenwashing and saying that they are sustainable, but that’s not true. This will affect our communities very badly in Port Isabel because there are families, children, adults that have asthma and this will hurt them greatly,” said Dina Nuñez, Border Workers United. “We can’t let these things enter our Valley. These companies come to destroy our land, and our way of life. They want to pollute us. There is pollution, but not as much as there will be if these companies are allowed to do what they want. And they will hurt our coastal community.”
“Being the original people of this land, it’s been sad to watch what FERC has been doing. These are sacred sites here that are going to be impacted. There have been people here way before all this industry development,” said Juan Mancias, Tribal Chairman of the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of South Texas, “We need to understand that colonization occurred to exploit the resources of this land, and it’s still happening today, centuries later. We need to be strong in seeking real justice for Texans and for this sacred land.”