We are members of The Rio Grande Valley Coalition for Healthy Children.

Our coalition is comprised of a group of pediatric providers who have submitted our concerns to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) with each of the three applications (Texas LNG, Rio Grande LNG, and Annova LNG) which have now been submitted to the FERC for the establishment of over 1,000 acres of liquefied natural gas facilities in the Port of Brownsville.

As a recent Rio Grande Guardian article correctly states, this endeavor would be the largest proposed private investment in the State of Texas. It is unfortunate and tragic that it is an investment that will have a profound and long lasting impact on the health of our children and our communities.

The FERC is in the middle of the process to approve these massive terminals. It is no accident that Kathleen Eisbrenner chose this moment to “contribute” and sign a memorandum of Understanding with the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV). The political forces behind this endeavor are monumental and Next Decade (Rio Grande LNG) has thrown everything it has to make sure that they come out on the “winning” side of this investment.

Communities like the Rio Grande Valley have ALWAYS been asked to choose between health and opportunity. This is once again what we are being asked to do.

In our submission to the FERC, we addressed the specific topic of the impact of the health of our children. To highlight some of our concerns:

In the Rio Grande LNG application to the FERC, it is reported that an estimate of 400 tons of PM2.5 will be emitted annually during routine operation. The EPA issued a report in 2013 estimating the monetary benefit per ton of reduction of PM2.5 emissions per sector. The monetary benefit is calculated from a reduction in morbidity and mortality associated with PM2.5. Based on their calculations, each ton of PM2.5 reduced from this sector will have a dollar value, in avoided morbidity and mortality impacts, of $300,000 to $750,000 in the year 2020. By simple calculation, that means that each year of routine operation, Rio Grande LNG will cost Cameron County $120 million to $300 million in morbidity and mortality impacts. That is calculated from an estimated 12,400 minor restricted activity days, 2,000 work loss days, 400 asthma exacerbations, 120 respiratory and cardiovascular hospital admissions, and 16 non-fatal heart attacks — each year (Technical Support Document Estimating the Benefit per Ton of Reducing PM2.5 Precursors from 17 Sectors. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Air and Radiation Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards. January 2013).

The Rio Grande LNG facility is estimated to produce 8.5 million tons per year (tpy) of greenhouse gases. For reference, the entire city of Brownsville, using national per capita emissions data, produces less than half those greenhouse gasses in an entire year. The residents of the city of Brownsville and the surrounding areas will see their air pollution triple with the addition of this facility to our area (WRI Climate Analysis Indicator Tool).

In addition to Particulate Matter, Greenhouse Emissions and other pollutants, we are concerned about the increase in Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s). These are pollutants that are known carcinogens and teratogens and because of the continuing lack of proper air monitors, our population would be placed at an unnecessary risk.

Thus, as pediatric providers in the Rio Grande Valley, we are astonished that the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley would choose a partnership that is directly opposed by communities in the direct path and plume of this facility (South Padre Island, Port Isabel, and Bayview). These liquid natural gas facilities are looking for, and taking advantage of, communities that are willing to compromise the health and welfare of its people for profits.

The legacy of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley cannot be defined by such a shortsighted sell out to corporate greed. Denial of the fundamental health effects that will arise in the wake of this facility is irresponsible and beneath the level of community involvement and improvement that the state university system stands for. Their decision essentially agrees to compromise the health and welfare of resident families and their communities to companies that will profit from the pollution they generate into our communities. That’s not something the University of Texas system should endorse.