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Moving full speed ahead on new fossil fuel infrastructure, the Trump Administration’s federal regulators approved permits for three new liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals in the Rio Grande Valley and the expansion of another in Corpus Christi, according to the Houston Chronicle. They do not have financing and final approvals yet, and a coalition of environmentalists, Native Americans, shrimpers, fishers, and communities working under the banner Save RGV From LNG are fighting the Brownsville projects due to safety and environmental concerns.
Why This Matters: The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) with President Trump’s appointees at the helm have sped through 11 LNG projects in the last 9 months alone. This much new LNG infrastructure at this point makes no sense. These projects could easily become financially untenable within a decade, thereby leaving billions in stranded assets and many displaced workers. Or they will keep pumping for decades, tying us to fossil fuels for longer than we can afford. Not to mention that the Brownsville projects are being built in poorer neighborhoods, and will also potentially harm three local endangered species. One of the three FERC commissioners objected to these permits saying the Commission had failed to live up to its legal obligations to protect the public and the environment. But he was regrettably outvoted.
The Case Against the Projects
The environmental impacts of the project are significant. Environmental reviews for the Brownsville projects stated that the combined light, noise and habitat fragmentation from the projects would harm endangered species such as the ocelot, jaguarundi, and aplomado falcon. The local opponents also argue that these “follow a familiar pattern for energy projects, such as refineries and chemical plants” and that they will be located in some of the poorest areas where nearly one-third of households live on less than $15,000 per year. Others living nearby fear that coastal breezes will carry pollutants such as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and volatile organic compounds into their community and could also impact local tourism.
“It’s disappointing that FERC failed to recognize that these proposed fracked gas facilities would be a disaster for the Rio Grande Valley, but today’s approval is far from the end of the fight,” Sierra Club Brownsville Organizer Rebekah Hinojosa said in a statement. “Our communities are united in opposition to these dirty, dangerous projects, and we will continue to pursue all avenues – from the courts to pressuring financial institutions – to ensure they are never built.”
Why The Commission Favors Them
In a word: jobs. The Chronicle reported that the three Brownsville projects would lead to more than $38 billion of private investment, thousands of construction jobs and hundreds of high-paying permanent jobs in an area with nearly 5% unemployment.
The Commission Chairman said in a statement.“The commission has now completed its work on applications for 11 LNG export projects in the past nine months, helping the United States expand the availability of natural gas for our global allies who need access to an efficient, affordable and environmentally friendly fuel for power generation.”
Investment in electric vehicles and their components and infrastructure continue to grow in spite of the pandemic and economic downturn, not to mention the infancy of the market.According to MarketWatch.com, there is “sky high” investor interest in clean energy and electric vehicle companies.
President Trump trumpeted his trade deal with China, but so far it has been a bust, according to The Wall Street Journal — the Chinese have not purchased nearly the amount of energy (in terms of total dollars) as they promised — only $2B in oil and gas purchases against a commitment of $25B for this year.
A federal judge in Washington, DC ruled yesterday that the Dakota Access Pipeline must shut down and empty all its oil until the government completes an environmental review of the pipeline’s impacts, giving the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose reservation lies downstream, a huge victory. Similarly, late in the day, the Supreme Court refused to overturn the order of a district judge that shut down construction of parts of the Keystone XL pipeline so it is also blocked for now.
Why It Matters: The Dakota and Keystone XL news is greatly tempered by the fact that numerous other pipeline projects can go ahead despite their inadequate permit unless they are individually challenged in court and blocked.
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