BROWNSVILLE, RGV – Eduardo Campirano, director and CEO of the Port of Brownsville, has dismissed the findings of a recent report from the Sierra Club about the impact of liquefied natural gas terminals on the region.

The 12-page report, titled “The Environmental Impacts of Liquefied Natural Gas on the Rio Grande Valley,” says the Port of Brownsville’s efforts to land five LNG export terminals could bring “industrial pollution, the risk of disaster, and habitat destruction to the Rio Grande Valley.” It was produced by the Lower Rio Grande Valley Group of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Campirano says the findings in the Sierra Club’s report are wide of the mark. “Safety is paramount for any new large industrial concern at the Port of Brownsville,” adding that the LNG industry in the United States has an “excellent” safety record.

“The industry as a whole has technical and operational guidelines that address safe and secure operations of these facilities. There are multiple layers of protection that ensure the safety of the workers at these facilities as well as the safety of the communities in which they are located,” Campirano said.

He said the same holds true for LNG vessels.

“There are multiple codes, standards and regulations that apply to the LNG industry to maintain safety of the operation of LNG facilities, and the transfer and transportation of LNG. Some of the examples cited in the report by the Sierra Club are examples of incidents that have occurred in foreign countries that do not maintain the same standard as those imposed in the U.S.”

Campirano also said there is “rigorous regulatory control” over the LNG industry in the United States. He said there are four primary federal agencies that have specific regulatory enforcement roles in the U.S. They are the Department of Energy (DOE), the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG).

“The FERC is the agency that is responsible for the siting and construction of onshore and near shore LNG import and export LNG facilities. FERC requirements address every aspect of LNG construction and operations including engineering and design, operational safety and delivery, location and geographic risk, etc.,” Campirano said.

“Each proposed LNG project must submit to the FERC a pre-filing followed by a full submittal of it plans before any permit for the construction of an LNG facility can be approved. In addition, as the lead federal agency for the permitting of these facilities, the FERC implements all of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements. NEPA requires all federal agencies consider the environmental impact of these proposed facilities.”

Campirano said that, as yet, none of the proposed Port of Brownsville LNG applicants have filed the FERC pre-filing. “They have advised us that they will be doing so in the first quarter of 2015. We look forward to the initiation of the review process that includes a thorough vetting of each of these projects to ensure they meet all of the safety and environmental regulations.”

Campirano also cited a report that he said addressed the LNG industry’s safety and security record. Click here to read the report.

The Lower Rio Grande Valley Group of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club’s report on the impact of LNG export terminals in the Valley was sent to the Guardian by one of its high profile members, Stefanie Herweck.

In an email to the Guardian that accompanied the Sierra Club report, Herweck wrote: “While many local elected officials are touting the economic benefits of the (LNG) projects, the environmental group (Sierra Club) notes that the proposed facilities will bring industrial pollution, the risk of disaster, and habitat destruction to the Rio Grande Valley.”

Herweck listed the seven key findings in the Sierra Club report:

•    LNG relies on an inherently risky technology, and disasters do occur.
•    Dangerous air pollution will threaten the health of our most vulnerable citizens.
•    LNG facilities will emit tremendous amounts of greenhouse gases, contributing to climate change and the sea level rise that threatens our coastal communities.
•    The export terminals’ proposed locations in undeveloped natural areas means a loss of essential habitat that could have grave consequences for marine and terrestrial wildlife species, including the endangered ocelot.
•    The environmental degradation caused by LNG could have serious impacts on the Rio Grande Valley’s vibrant industries of ecotourism, beach tourism, and commercial fishing which bring millions of dollars into the regional economy.
•    LNG plants, with flares one hundred to five hundred feet tall, bright lights, and visible emissions and dust, will be a blight on Rio Grande Valley communities and further threaten ecotourism dollars which are vital to the economic well-being of the region.
•    Exporting natural gas will increase the destructive practice of fracking that is already damaging the environment and human health in other south Texas communities.

“The Lower Rio Grande Valley Sierra Club hopes that the release of this report will spur discussion about these projects that, if built, will have tremendous impacts on our community and our environment for decades to come,” Herweck added.

Click here to read the Sierra Club report.