Sierra Club Presses Court to Prevent LNG Construction on Wetlands

Motion to stay seeks to preserve land while facility faces litigation

Contact: Lindsay Stafford Mader, 

Brownsville, TX – On Friday, the Sierra Club and partner organizations filed a motion to stay with the D.C. Circuit Court to prevent construction from happening at the proposed Rio Grande LNG facility site in Brownsville. The Sierra Club is currently fighting the federal permit approvals for the facility and related Rio Bravo pipeline in the same court. Because this litigation is pending, Sierra Club is arguing that developer NextDecade be ordered to hold off on construction of its harmful facility. The Biden Administration has ordered a pause on all non-approved proposed LNG facilities, a decision that doesn’t directly impact Rio Grande LNG but does create significant uncertainty around the need for future LNG export capacity.

The Rio Grande LNG facility would mark an egregious encroachment of polluting industry into the natural areas of South Texas – and one that has been opposed by the community for threatening endangered ocelots, desecrating Indigenous land, and making the air unhealthy to breathe. The organizations – which include Sierra Club, Port Isabel, the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas, and Vecinos para el Bienestar de la Comunidad Costera – have been challenging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s failure to adequately consider the projects’ environmental justice impacts and greenhouse gas emissions as required by the National Environmental Policy Act and the Natural Gas Act. 

Meanwhile, NextDecade has been clear cutting the site, constructing a parking lot, and attempting to turn an area with 180 acres of biodiverse wetlands into solid turf on which to build its giant polluting liquefaction facility. The related Rio Bravo pipeline would impact an additional 2,400 acres of wildlife habitat across Texas. The D.C. Circuit Court stay motion seeks to halt any further development on the site while the court case continues. Sierra Club had filed a stay motion with FERC in November, but the agency denied this motion on January 24. One of the commissioners strongly dissented, pointing out that allowing construction to proceed before the lawsuit is decided would irreparably harm local communities and the environment.

In response to the stay motion, advocates issued the following statements:

“This important strip of wetlands is sacred for us because it’s one place where we can connect with the land and its creatures,” said Juan Mancias, chair of the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas. “By destroying the site, this oil and gas company is taking away the recreation and clean air we need to survive in the modern world more than ever. If the court doesn’t stop industry from constructing things before we have our day in court, it will confirm to the entire Gulf Coast that this process is just a charade. It is the disrespect and dishonor that is prompted by the LNG facilities that perpetuate the sacrificial intentions to the grassroots population and tribal lands of Somi Se’k. We need to hold those accountable who are an accessory to lack of liability.”

“Both projects would cause major negative impacts to the communities who use this land and breathe the air – and they would impact the local economy that relies on tourism and outdoor recreation,” said Tom Gosselin, a staff attorney with the Sierra Club. “Starting construction makes no sense when we’re actively litigating FERC’s approval of the project. We must prevent irreparable harm from being done in the meantime.”

“This incredibly biodiverse strip of land is not only important to our community, but our ecosystem as well,” said Patti Rubio, a naturalist and member of the South Texas Environmental Justice Network. “The biodiversity found at these biomes is irreplaceable and crucial to the food chains of so many animals, including the endangered ocelot. Construction at this biome must stop as soon as possible if we are going to preserve the life that has existed here before we did.”

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