HARLINGEN, RGV – There will not be debate or discussion about liquefied natural gas export terminals being built at the Port of Brownsville at this year’s Valley Environmental Summit, which takes place today in Harlingen.

State Rep. Eddie Lucio, who founded the summit six years ago, said if organizers had added LNG to the agenda it would have detracted from all the great topics that will be discussed.

State Rep. Eddie Lucio, III.
State Rep. Eddie Lucio, III.

Valley Environmental Summit 2015 takes place in the Cultural Arts Center at Texas State Technical College-Harlingen from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“Whether to add LNG to the agenda was a question we faced. By the time they (the LNG firms) requested to be part of the conference we had already devised our agenda. A lot of our speakers are traveling from other parts of the state and other parts of the country. They have made travel plans to be here. We have given them a slot,” Lucio told the Rio Grande Guardian.

“In order to satisfy both sides of that issue, because I think it would be irresponsible to allow only one side to speak, we would have had to take away time from other speakers that committed to us a year ahead of time. We just thought that this is more of an information session as opposed to a venue for debate on a specific issue. Ours is an idea-sharing, information gathering, event. That (LNG) is a very politically charged debate right now. We did not want to distract from all the resources that we are trying to provide the community. That debate (over LNG) needs to happen. Those people need to get together and learn from one another. But I just did not feel the Valley Environmental Summit was the venue for it.”

Three companies – Annova LNG, Texas LNG, and Rio Grande LNG – have made applications to build LNG export terminals at the Port of Brownsville. Their applications are currently being vetted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Supporters of LNG say the three companies have submitted environmentally sound proposals. Opponents say having LNG export terminals at the Port of Brownsville would be dangerous and would negatively impact tourism.

Lucio said this year’s Valley Environmental Summit has been organized by a non-profit that has been set up specifically to grow environmental awareness in the Valley. “In previous summits we never made a profit. All the proceeds went to cover the costs. But we believe we will be able to get more participants as a non-profit,” said Lucio, D-Harlingen. “The board will in a large way manage this summit going forward.”

Asked why he started the Valley Environmental Summit six years ago, Lucio said: “I served on Environmental Regulations at the time and later served on Natural Resources. Although these issues are important to South Texas there was not really a venue for us to discuss these issues as a region. We wanted to have a vehicle through which we could address, generally, the environmental issues that have been facing the Valley for the last decade or so.”

Lucio said the summit also serves to celebrate the successes some Valley cities have had in conserving scarce natural resources.

“We do this in part to celebrate our successes. Cities like Brownsville, McAllen, and some of the smaller cities are doing some great things in terms of conservation and our environmental footprint. We want to have folks from the lower Valley appreciate what is going on in the upper Valley and vice versa. We also want to share resources. Sometimes we have municipalities that do not have a good dialogue with TCEQ or the Texas Water Development Board. We hope we can open that dialogue. TCEQ has been a great partner for us.”

TCEQ is a state agency. It stands for Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

The keynote speaker at Valley Environmental Summit 2015 is Bech K. Bruun, chairman of the Texas Water Development Board. “Bech Bruun is a great, young, dynamic leader in our state. Obviously the Water Development Board is critical for our water projects moving forward. We will also have the chairman of the TCEQ. Bryan Shaw, in attendance. TCEQ has been a great partner. We are very pleased with this year’s lineup of speakers.”