HARLINGEN, Texas – Of the 5,000 workers needed to construct a liquefied natural gas export terminal at the Port of Brownsville, 1,750 will be local hires.

That is the pledge from NextDecade, the parent company of Rio Grande LNG.

“We are anticipating that during peak construction, we’re going to have up to 5,000 people working on the project. And we’re really aiming to have at least 35% of those people be from the (Rio Grande) Valley,” said Susan Richardson, senior director of communications at NextDecade and Rio Grande LNG.

Susan Richardson

Richardson gave her comments in an exclusive interview with the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service during a company open house event at Texas State Technical College in Harlingen.

Richardson said NextDecade has “actually made a commitment to the community that we would have 35 percent (of workers) if not more from the Valley.”

Richardson predicted: “In the longer term, after the project is completed, we’ll have 350 to 400 full time long-term employees.”

Close to 200 students from area schools attended the open house. There, they were assured that the project will be safe.

Asked why NextDecade hosted the open house, Richardson said: “First, it is a continuation of our community partnership and dialogue that we’ve had regarding this project in the Rio Grande Valley over the last few years. And the other objective is to bring in students to hear more about what we’re going to be doing here in the community, to learn more about LNG itself, and also to learn about job opportunities for the future, because we’re going to be here for a long time and we’re going to have a lot of people working for us. So, we want to start educating the up and coming workforce about what we’re doing.”

Asked for a timeline on the project, Richardson said: “The construction (will start) after we make our positive final investment decision. It’ll take seven to eight years for the project to be completely built.”

Asked about critics that claim liquefied natural gas terminals are not safe and harm the environment, Richardson said: “Safety and the environment and protection of that is paramount for NextDecade and Rio Grande LNG.”

The communications director said NextDecade and Rio Grande LNG has partnered with multiple federal state and local authorities throughout the entire permitting process. She said these include the Department of Energy, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Texas Department of Environmental Quality, among others.

“Something that is interesting to note is that we have set aside about 4,000 acres that we are going to be having, mitigation of wetlands, protection of the lowlands, as well as habitats for ocelots. That is five times larger than the size of our facility will actually be.”

Asked why the students were invited to the open house, Richardson said: “It’s a continuation of our community partnership and by bringing the students in, we get to do two things. We get to educate them about what liquefied natural gas is and what this liquefied natural gas is not and to talk about the safety of it. But also to talk to them about the future here with NextDecade and Rio Grande LNG and the job opportunities that will come along with this development.”

Richardson said NextDecade and Rio Grande LNG is in discussion with a number of education institutions to ensure it has a pipeline of skilled workers for the project.

“We are in discussions with many educational institutions around the Valley. We’re going to have more information on that once we make our final investment decision and we welcome anyone to visit our website at riograndelng.com to learn more.”

Editor’s Note: Here is the audio interview with NextDecade’s Susan Richardson:


Editor’s Note: The above news story is the second in a two-part series on NextDecade’s current series of open house meetings. Click here to read Part One.

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