PORT ISABEL, RGV – Critics of three proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals near South Padre Island believe they have come up with a novel way of making their voices heard at public hearing on Tuesday evening.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has said the views of South Texas residents towards the LNG facilities can only be made in private with the use of a stenographer, with no public comment before an audience. FERC said it has decided to this for the sake of “efficiency” and to “avoid grandstanding.”

Jim Chapman of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Sierra Club.
Jim Chapman of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Sierra Club.

So, to make a vocal protest, the Sierra Club and Save RGV from LNG will ask opponents of the LNG terminals to speak aloud just outside of the hearing venue. The spoken comments will be recorded, and copies will be provided to FERC for entry into the project dockets, said Jim Chapman, chair of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Sierra Club.

“These are enormous industrial facilities that could fundamentally change our coastal communities. These decisions must not be made behind closed doors, and without rigorous, open discussion of how this will impact our children, our grandchildren, and us. Residents should have the opportunity to learn, hear, and respond to one another in a public venue,” Chapman said.

The public hearing or scoping meeting, as FERC calls it, takes place Tuesday, August 11, from 5:00pm to 8:00pm at the Port Isabel Event and Cultural Center, 309 E. Railroad in Port Isabel.

Chapman said speakers at the outside rally will include local medical professionals concerned about the health impacts of increased pollution and experts on conservation and the wildlife corridor. Chapman said conservationists are very concerned about the impact LNG facilities will have on the migration patterns of ocelots, a highly endangered cat.

Laguna Vista resident Maria Galasso said business folks and workers who depend on tourism and fishing will speak at the rally.

“South Padre Island is the jewel of Texas’ coast, and people from all over the state flock to its beaches precisely because they are not blighted by heavy industry. With these LNG export facilities releasing smog and carcinogens into the air, and their 15 story-tall storage tanks and 300-500 foot flare stacks blocking the sunset, that jewel will be ruined and our tourism industry will suffer,” Galasso said.

Aziza C. Barker, of Laguna Madre Yoga, Meditation & Dance Center and Center Pivot Massage, made this comment about the LNG proposals: “I am a long time resident of Laguna Vista and business owner on SPI. I am hopeful that speaking out against the implications of these plants in our vicinity is a priority for all Valley residents and not just those of us who drive past the proposed sites daily.”

Susana Dunlap, an Austin resident, said: “I grew up in the Rio Grande Valley and currently live in Austin, Texas. I’ve always visited South Padre Island and Brownsville during my summer vacations for the last 15-plus years. Winters too. I’m saddened and disappointed that some of the Valley’s local business leaders would allow such development as LNG. I personally visit South Padre because it offers cleaner air and a pristine green environment unlike other major Texas coastal cities.”

Chapman said Rio Grande Valley residents are concerned that the three companies that want to build LNG export terminals at the Port of Brownsville have downplayed many serious issues. He cited these:

·       The risk posed to communities by leaks of liquefied natural gas, which can mix with oxygen and ignite to form an intensely hot fire capable of killing and injuring people up to a mile away
·       Emissions of air pollutants, including carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and volatile organic compounds upwind of coastal communities
·       All of the LNG projects are planned for green field sites that will require the bulldozing of essential habitat for endangered species, such as the ocelot, and the filling in of acres of wetlands that act as aquatic nurseries for commercial marine species
·       Loss of local beach tourism and eco-tourism industries that support thousands of jobs
·       Loss of municipal and county revenue, as LNG companies request decades-long tax abatements even as they use the roads and other services that those taxes would pay for
·       Higher local and national prices for the natural gas that powers electric generation, leading to higher consumer electric rates and higher prices on all consumer goods
·       Dramatically increased fracking throughout South Texas to supply these export terminals, with all of the serious environmental, health, and safety impacts that go with fracking
·       Gas pipeline networks to feed the LNG terminals that will utilize eminent domain and put landowners at risk

The Save RGV from LNG group has adopted the slogan, Our Home is Not an LNG Sacrifice Zone.

“The people who are making decisions about our future – our elected officials, the Port of Brownsville, the FERC – need to hear from those of us who will have to live with their decisions,” said Brownsville resident Crystal Martinez. “They seem to want to stuff their ears and close their eyes and ignore the obvious – LNG facilities are not free money. They will bring pollution that will poison our kids, industrialization that will undermine our economy, and environmental devastation.”

Chapman said the Sierra Club urges all Texans who want to protect South Padre Island to submit written comments on the proposed LNG terminals if they are unable to attend the FERC hearings in person. Click here to download the form.

The three companies applying for licenses to build LNG export terminals are Annova LNG, Texas LNG, and Rio Grande LNG.