South Texas Groups, Sierra Club Condemn Federal Decisions to Advance Gulf LNG Facilities

Advocates turn to legal challenges to fight terminals, pipeline

Lindsay Stafford Mader,

Brownsville, TX – On Friday, the Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) rejected several environmental groups’ motions for rehearing on the reapprovals of three methane gas projects along the South Texas Gulf Coast. The decisions on Rio Grande LNG, Texas LNG, and the Rio Bravo pipeline are being condemned by the groups, which say the rehearing rejections are more evidence that FERC goes through the motions rather than meaningfully carry out its regulatory duties. The organizations now turn their focus to ongoing legal challenges to the reapprovals of the destructive facilities.

“The process employed by FERC in evaluating the permits for these LNG facilities was deeply flawed, and – even at that – the facilities have not complied,” said Jared Hockema, the city manager of Port Isabel. “As a result, the health and safety of our residents have been imperiled. We want to ensure that the environment and the public’s health are protected, and that the rules are followed. So far, none of that has happened.”

“FERC is required by law to consider the environmental and safety impacts of these facilities on the community, but it keeps rubber-stamping approvals despite the risks highlighted in its own analysis,” said Emma Guevara, a Brownsville-based field organizer with the Sierra Club. “If the agency can’t admit when it might have made a bad call, and seriously reconsider, it becomes clearer that the federal government continues to see the Gulf Coast as a sacrifice zone. FERC needs to understand that these projects and facilities are causing real harm and encroach upon sacred Native lands. We will continue to advocate for our community and make sure FERC knows that we won’t stand down.” 

Liquified natural gas (LNG) is methane gas that has been cooled into liquid form so that it can be shipped to other countries, a practice that has been active in the lower 48 states for less than a decade. LNG emissions warm the climate over 80 times more than carbon dioxide, pollute the air for nearby communities, and pose a major explosion risk for the surrounding area. According to the Washington Post, “greenhouse gas emissions associated with just one LNG export project … [in Louisiana] would be 20 times as large as those from the Willow Project.”

FERC has approved every LNG facility permit it has ever considered, except for one project in Oregon that it denied (but later approved). It initially issued approvals for the proposed Rio Grande LNG and Texas LNG facilities and Rio Bravo pipeline, which were then successfully challenged in court and remanded back to FERC for more analysis and reconsideration. FERC’s May reapproval of the projects came after it considered little new information, failed to adequately evaluate environmental impacts, and failed to fix any of the problems identified by the court. Its decisions came despite widespread community objections and legal challenges by the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas, City of Port Isabel, Sierra Club, and Vecinos para el Bienestar de la Comunidad Costera.  

“LNG pollutes the earth when it’s burned at power plants across the world but first it pollutes our ancestral land here at home,” said Juan Mancias, leader of the Carrizo/Comecrudo Tribe of Texas. “Texas LNG would be built on top of marshland that holds sacred and irreplaceable value for generations of our people. Garcia Pasture is in one of the last un-industrialized areas of the Texas coast, and it will be nothing but metal and gas leaks and threats of explosions if FERC and these wealthy companies have their way. We will take this fight against corporate greed as far as we need to.” 

Almost all of these gas export facilities are put in poor communities and places that are majority people of color,” said Christopher Basaldú, PhD, a member of Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas and a Brownsville resident. “By rubber-stamping these LNG projects, FERC is approving and facilitating environmental racism and continuing America’s long history of Native genocide by certifying LNG projects on sacred native lands, by digging up our ancestors who should be allowed to rest, and by promoting pollution which will damage our communities for generations to come. LNG projects will only add to carbon emissions and climate catastrophe in the age of global boiling.” 

After FERC reapproved the projects in May, the groups requested rehearing, explaining serious shortcomings with FERC’s analyses of environmental impacts. Friday’s decisions by FERC mean the commissioners continue to stand by their shortsighted approvals despite advocates traveling to Washington, DC, to fight for their communities and sending FERC a letter voicing 49 groups’ opposition to permitting the projects. The next step for the groups fighting these facilities will be filing opening briefs in the D.C. Circuit Court.

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