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BROWNSVILLE, RGV – Brownsville Navigation District held a news conference recently to announce funding to deepen the Port of Brownsville ship channel.

NextDecade Corporation, which is considering building a liquefied natural gas export terminal at the port, will partly fund Brazos Island Harbor Channel Improvement Project. The company has an option to lease 984 acres at the port. 

Among the speakers at the news conference were John Reed, chairman of BND, Matt Schatzman, president and CEO of NextDecade, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette, Texas Secretary of State David Whitley, Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño, Jr., and Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez. 

In a news release, BND said deepening the ship channel was a “landmark agreement” that would “transform the business landscape of the Rio Grande Valley.”

The Rio Grande Guardian, in partnership with Ron Whitlock Reports and RGV Public Rio 88 FM, has transcribed the speeches made at the news conference.

Here are the remarks of:

U.S. Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette


It is so good to be back here in Texas, I’ve got to tell you. I miss my days in San Antonio very much. I would also like to thank Matt Schatzman, president and CEO of NextDecade. It is so good to have you here. Thank you for the opportunity and honor, frankly, to be here to join you. Distinguished guests.

Brownsville is a very special town. We took our family a few times to Brownsville and South Padre Island.

Dan Brouillette

We are here to celebrate today the BIH as Matt refers to it, and its impact, which I am here today to confirm will go well beyond the Port of Brownsville. It is going to go well beyond Texas, and the Lone Star State. In fact, it is going to go well beyond the United States. This agreement and all the benefits that will follow from it will continue what Secretary Perry calls the New American Energy Era. Over the past two years we have truly unleashed the power of American energy. 

Today the United States is the world’s largest producer of oil and gas and between now and 2025 we expect to contribute one half of the world’s growth in oil and gas production. And according to the Energy Information Administration, or EIA as we refer to it inside the department, this year, we expect to produce an average of 12.4 million barrels of crude oil per day. And 13.2 million in 2020, with most of that growth coming from right here in the Permian Basin. This year, we also expect natural gas production to average 90.2 billion cubic feet per day and continue to rise to 92.1 in 2020. And at the same time that we have led the world in reducing energy related carbon emissions – we have cut them by 14 percent from 2005 to 2017 – and we expect those emissions to decline even further as we continue this important gas production here in the United States. 

Those are truly, truly, astonishing numbers, especially since it was not that long ago in America that we were experiencing an energy shortage. I can remember very distinctly growing up in south Louisiana long gas lines back in the early 1970s. I have plenty of grey hair, I can remember that quite vividly. Growing up in south Louisiana was always a mystery to me. We were in an oil producing state, an energy state and I remember asking my Dad why are we in a line to buy gasoline. It did not make any sense to me. 

So, how did we get here to today? Now, we are the largest producer of oil and gas. How as a nation did we go from a perceived energy shortage to now exporting LNG to over 34 countries on five different continents? We did it by striking the right balance between technology, between politics, and between economics. Through innovation and technology, the right policies, a reliance on a free and open market, we are now beginning to transform the oil and gas sector. As Secretary Perry says, rightly so, we have opened up a new era of American energy. 

The United States is now a net exporter of natural gas on an annual basis for the first time in 60 years. Since 2016, we have exported over two trillion cubic feet of LNG across the world. U.S. LNG is now landing in Asia, in Africa, South America, North America, the Caribbean, Europe and, if you can believe this, the Middle East. Who would have thought that just ten, 15, 20 years ago? This is an amazing accomplishment and we hope to expand our efforts over the coming decades. 

In the United States we have authorized 26 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas exports, primarily spread across 11 large-scale export projects in Louisiana, Texas, Maryland, Georgia and the Gulf of Mexico. In addition to that the Cameron, the Freeport, the Elba Island projects are under construction and they are set to begin exporting later this year. Another project, Golden Pass, has recently begun construction and its planned start date is 2025. These additions will more than double U.S. LNG export capacity to approximately 11 billion cubic feet per day. 

NextDecade’s Rio Grande project will further this energy growth and bring prosperity to this region. And we are eager to transform Brownsville into an incredible port of opportunity. To make it happen we must ensure that the energy we produce reaches its destination and that it is delivered without impediment and without interruption, and that’s why it is so vital to continue to build infrastructure, including the pipelines from the Permian and doing projects like the Rio Grande. 

That is why I was so pleased that, earlier this month, President Trump signed two executive orders implementing comprehensive, whole of government approaches to streamline the development of energy infrastructure projects and reduce barriers to achieving that goal. I was with him on Air Force One and flew with him down to Houston to sign those agreements. I can confirm to you, I can affirm to you that the president is truly embracing regulatory reform so that regulations can once again become the rules of the road rather than the barriers across it. 

At DOE we are doing exactly that. This last September, we issued a rule that will expedite the permitting of small scale exports of United States natural gas to places like the Caribbean and Central America where infrastructure and economic constraints limit large scale LNG imports. We also made changes to reporting requirements for LNG exports sales and contracts that will increase efficiency and streamline LNG exports. And we are committed to continuing to work with our partners to further streamline the energy infrastructure permitting and authorizing process. And on that note we applaud and support FERC’s new approach to expediting and improving the review of LNG terminal applications. 

It is a significant step toward bringing more U.S. LNG to the world market and building on the successes of American natural gas. Yet all these projects couldn’t happen without the engagement and the commitment of partners from the private sector and across the federal government. Which is why I am so pleased that the Army Corps of Engineers is involved in this effort. I am delighted by the commitment and investment that NextDecade has made, not only to the Brownsville community and Cameron County but to the State of Texas and, indeed, our entire country. 

The Rio Grande project would not be possible without an innovative public and private partnership, as Matt pointed out. The BIH agreement is the first step to providing the necessary infrastructure to LNG exports. Just to reiterate what Matt was talking about just a minute ago, at full development, the Rio Grande project is expected to be the largest infrastructure project in Texas and during its construction it will bring more than 5,000 jobs and contribute more than $35 billion to our U.S. GDP. And its flow of LNG will make immeasurable contributions to our nation’s prosperity. Today we are at the beginning in Brownsville, the opening of a new era of American energy. 

I am excited to be a part of this moment today with you and I am excited for the days and the decades that are  just before us. We have a great future to build together. A port that works, a city that provides and a nation that succeeds.

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