Ginny Cleaveland, Deputy Press Secretary, Fossil-Free Finance, Sierra Club, email@example.com, 415-508-8498 (Pacific Time)
BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS — After years of campaigning by activists in the US and Europe, French bank Société Générale confirmed this morning it has withdrawn financial support for the highly controversial proposed Rio Grande LNG project at the Port of Brownsville, Texas. The bank had been the target of US and French activists since 2017, when it was first listed as the financial advisor of the project.
- Read the press release in Spanish here
NextDecade, the company behind the Rio Grande LNG project, has been behind on the project’s timeline for years, and in March 2023 announced it would delay the project’s Final Investment Decision (FID) until summer 2023. Despite not having a FID, the company began clear cutting land for the project in 2022. Rio Grande LNG still faces several challenges, including a lawsuit victory from the Sierra Club asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to re-review the project’s environmental impact statement (EIS) because it failed to adequately consider the project’s environmental justice and climate impacts.
Rio Grande LNG is one of several damaging and polluting projects proposed in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Rio Grande LNG would also build a new connecting pipeline, the Rio Bravo Pipeline, to transport gas. The project also wants to build a carbon capture and storage (CCS) facility in Cameron County, TX, an industry greenwashing technology that has been proven to fail and create more environmental problems. Rio Grande LNG would be built next door to Texas LNG, another proposed gas export facility.
There is tremendous local opposition to these proposed LNG projects in the Rio Grande Valley. The directly impacted communities — South Padre Island, Port Isabel, Laguna Vista, and Long Island Village — have all passed anti-LNG resolutions because the projects threaten their fishing and nature tourism economy, destroy wildlife habitat of the endangered ocelot, and pollute low-income Latinx residents.
Texas LNG threatens the destruction of Garcia Pasture, a sacred village and burial site belonging to the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas. Garcia Pasture is considered the premier historic site of Cameron County by the National Parks Service and is recognized by the World Monuments Fund. The LNG companies have never consulted with the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas about their plans to construct on lands that are sacred to them.
On March 25, 2023, the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe began Bridge to the Ancestors, a youth-led walk from Monahans in West Texas, which will end on April 2 in Port Isabel, TX to raise awareness of the various environmental justice issues along the fracking cycle. The fracking cycle includes every region impacted by oil and gas extraction: from fracking in the Permian Basin, to transport by explosive pipelines, to processing plants in the Gulf that would export the gas overseas.
Rio Grande Valley report
In October 2022, the Sierra Club, Rainforest Action Network, and partner organizations released a report on the risks to the Rio Grande Valley from two LNG proposals.
The report combats false solutions and details community opposition, climate and health impacts, ecosystem damage, and the reputational & financial risk to the institutions financing the projects. Read more in InsideClimate: Indigenous Leaders in Texas Target Global Banks to Keep LNG Export Off of Sacred Land at the Port of Brownsville.
Banks and investors under fire
Banks and investors have constantly been under fire for supporting Rio Grande LNG, including French bank Société Générale and French utility Engie, which have been criticized for supporting fracked gas projects that go against France’s climate commitments and the country’s domestic fracking ban. In 2017, public opposition forced French bank BNP Paribas to withdraw from the proposed Texas LNG project.
Engie dropped its support of Rio Grande LNG in 2020, but revived the deal last year. French petrochemical company TotalEnergies is also reported to be in talks with NextDecade to purchase gas from Rio Grande LNG, and may take an equity stake in the project.
“We traveled to Paris in 2017 to meet with Société Générale bank officials. We protested outside their bank offices, confronted their shareholders, and were booed at their meeting. Years and years of facing these banks and demanding that they step off our sacred lands and sacred sites have led us to these great victories. French bank BNP Paribas stopped its support for Texas LNG in 2017, and Société Générale has finally withdrawn from Rio Grande LNG,” said Juan Mancias, chairman of the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas. “But we won't back down. Rio Grande LNG has been bulldozing our sacred lands — it is corporate theater for its investors because the company has been delayed for years and is not authorized to build anything. They have already desecrated the ground and the ancestors are angry. The Port of Brownsville commissioners are following bad business ventures.”
"Today's victory is seven years in the making. Our community and the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe have been pushing banks to pull their support for the proposed Rio Grande LNG gas project that is already destroying sacred Native lands, would pollute the Rio Grande Valley, and wreck the climate. Société Générale's withdrawal from Rio Grande LNG is a warning to all other major banks: Stop supporting fracking and LNG," said Rebekah Hinojosa, a Brownsville resident and campaign representative with the Sierra Club.
See additional quotes from French advocacy groups, including Reclaim Finance and Friends of the Earth France, here.
In May 2017, Hinojosa and Mancias traveled to France to speak to the banks supporting LNG projects in Texas. Read more here: I Followed LNG’s Financial Backers to Paris, France.
Available for interviews: Rebekah Hinojosa, the Sierra Club’s Gulf Coast campaign representative, is available for interviews in English.
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.