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Fullerton mapAn oil company is proposing to frack in North McAllen. The well would be started near Main and Northgate, and drilled horizontally under 10th Street almost to Colonel Rowe. The company has applied for a permit from the City of McAllen, and the City Commission has the power to deny the permit. (McAllen Code of Ordinances, Article IV, Division I, Section 46-172).

The City Commission will be considering the permit at the next meeting on Monday, March 27 at 5:00 pm at City Hall, 1300 W. Houston in McAllen.

The company is Texakoma, and the people who are listed as the tract mineral owners are Aaron Bond, Sylvia Ruth Ausmus Allen, Ann Louise Corso, and Joe Warren Friend, Jr.

well on Main and Fullerton with mineral rights

The company is also proposing to build a road from 10th Street to the drill site.

Fracking is an extremely violent process that is disruptive to residential communities. The wells expose neighbors to unhealthy emissions, which at times can be very concentrated. The fracturing of rock can cause shaking and crack the foundations of homes, and noise pollution is inevitable. Once a well is drilled, the company can frack or flare gas at will. For these reasons, houses near oil and gas wells can lose as much as 25% of their market value.

Blowouts and drilling accidents happen regularly and are a threat to life and property as far as a quarter mile away. And finally, the wells become a permanent part of our community. The concrete used to plug them can and does fail, and plugged wells are not monitored by regulatory agencies.

If you or someone you know may be affected by this well, please contact us at lrgvsierraclub@gmail.com

 

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LRGV Sierra Club’s Jim Chapman reading the letter before the Hidalgo County Commission

Valley organizations have presented a letter to Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia and McAllen Mayor Jim Darling asking them to rescind their support for levee-border walls in Hidalgo County. The letter comes as a response to letters that both men sent to federal officials suggesting that, although they were opposed to the border wall, Hidalgo County would welcome a combination levee-border wall. The full text and signators of the letter are below.

If you would like to add your name to a petition against the levee-wall plan, you may do so at http://bit.ly/2niBHOH

Dear Judge Garcia and Mayor Darling:

We the undersigned urge you to reconsider your support for the levee-border wall plan, to withdraw your offer to Congress and the Department of Homeland Security to help build them, and to actively and vocally oppose all border walls, including border walls built into levees.

As you have acknowledged numerous times, border walls do not make our communities here in Hidalgo County more secure. The crime rates in Texas border cities are already among the lowest in the nation. Most of the people who cross the border without documents are immigrants and refugees who do not pose a threat to us. Furthermore, walls do not stop people from crossing. The Government Accountability Office recently reported that Customs and Border Protection has never shown that border walls have any impact on rates of smuggling and immigration. But they can push migrants into crossing at more dangerous points along the border where too many suffer tragic deaths from dehydration and exposure.

We have been advised by International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) that all of the flood-control levees along the Rio Grande in Hidalgo County have already been repaired and certified.  They have been or will soon be submitted for certification by IBWC. We do not need the levee-walls that you are proposing in order to keep us safe from floods. The County does have real drainage challenges, including many colonias with localized flooding, but those will not be addressed by building extraordinarily expensive border walls into the river levees.

The map created by Dannenbaum Engineering does not take in account the homes, farms, and nature parks which would be impacted by the levee-wall. It simply draws a levee-wall along every section of the river levee where there is not already a wall. Therefore, you are proposing a plan without determining how Hidalgo County residents’ access to their homes and lands would be affected and how this would impact their property values.

The proposed levee wall also slices through the most visited nature parks in the County: Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge and Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park. Santa Ana is an ecotourism hotspot and the heart of the wildlife refuge system in the Rio Grande Valley, and Bentsen provides outdoor recreation opportunities for residents and tourists alike. Both parks are major hubs in our $460 million per year nature tourism industry. We already lost some of our parkland to the levee-wall when the Hidalgo Pumphouse hike and bike trail was walled off. Proposing a plan that could cut off these special places is irresponsible.

Levee-walls are especially devastating for wildlife and will strike a blow to the Lower Rio Grande Valley Wildlife Corridor that we have been working for almost 40 years to piece together. Terrestrial animals can move freely up and over levees, but an eighteen-foot solid concrete wall is an insurmountable obstacle. It will block them from access to habitat, water sources and mates. For this reason the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has said that levee-walls are not compatible with our wildlife refuge lands.

Our organizations and the Hidalgo County residents we represent are very concerned about what the Trump Administration’s border and immigration policies could mean for our home. We do not want border walls. We do not want to see our communities and nature parks cut off and militarized.

Please respect the concerns of your constituents.  Rescind your letters and resist, not promote, Trump’s border walls.

Sincerely,

Jim Chapman

Executive Committee Member

Lower Rio Grande Valley Sierra Club

Juanita Valdez-Cox

Executive Director

La Union del Pueblo Entero

Josué Ramirez

Lower Rio Grande Valley Co-director

Texas Low Income Housing Service

Karen Boward

President

Frontera Audubon

Sharon Slagle

President

Friends of the Wildlife Corridor

Lourdes Flores

President

A Resource in Serving Equality (ARISE)

Gerald Brazier

Chapter Leader

Call to Action-Rio Grande Valley

Martha Garcia

Secretary

Environmental Awareness Club at UTRGV

billOver 70 people attended the Save RGV from LNG kickoff campaign on Monday, April 11 to learn more about the  liquefied natural gas export terminals proposed for the Port of Brownsville and the negative impacts they could bring to the Rio Grande Valley.

            Sierra Club member Stefanie Herweck presented a dispatch from Lusby, Maryland where people are fighting the Dominion Cove Point LNG export terminal (currently being litigated by Sierra Club).  Stefanie visited the community last month and was able to interview many residents and activists, as well as see the terminal under construction. The Cove Point terminal is being built in a densely populated area, across the street from residential homes, even though the industry standard has required that LNG export terminals be built at least three miles from populated areas.  Despite the dangers of long term pollution from the gas-fired generators and catastrophic vapor cloud explosions, the agency in charge of permitting LNG export terminals, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), went ahead and approved Cove Point LNG and put thousands of people at serious risk.
           Stefanie made the point that if FERC would rubberstamp such an egregious project, they would certainly ignore the health and safety issues posed by the Port of Brownsville projects.  Those proposed export terminals don’t meet the long-time industry standard for remote siting either.  Texas LNG plans to build its terminal within two miles of Port Isabel and within three miles of Laguna Vista, putting those towns in the evacuation zone.  A three-mile evacuation zone would also close Highway 100, which is the only route off of South Padre Island.
          Stefanie said that the health and safety risks of the LNG industrial complex would be unacceptable and urged the audience to fight them.
           Afterward, Sierran Bill Berg presented a timeline of the Save RGV from LNG campaign with some great photos of many of our events and victories so far, and LRGV Sierra Club president Jim Chapman went over the regulatory process and discussed the effort to recruit people who could file motions to intervene with FERC.  Filing a motion to intervene makes you an official stakeholder.  People who may suffer materially from the LNG export terminals and pipeline may file for intervenor status.  We encourage people who are concerned about how LNG will impact their businesses or property values to file online with FERC as intervenors.  (For more information contact rebekah.hinojosa@sierraclub.org)
            Finally, our new organizer Rebekah divided people into groups for a brainstorm about how we can participate in the Earth Day festivities in Brownsville.  The consensus that developed was to have a No LNG March.  Stay tuned for an invitation for Saturday, April 23!
            The campaign kickoff was a great momentum-building experience for everyone involved, and it will be exciting to see what the next stage in the Save RGV from LNG campaign will bring.

oil-train-blast-zoneBY JOHN YOUNG

The Port of Brownsville is bringing more health problems our way, along with more safety risks and more damage to local businesses and economies.

Centurion Terminals began construction on terminals in the port that will process a form of crude oil called condensate into diesel and naphtha, which will then be exported.

Centurion expects to receive two train loads of condensate a day. Each will be 120 rail tanker cars full of highly flammable condensate long. The emissions from the trains’ diesel engines will damage human health all along the line.

They carry no liability insurance, and if there is a derailment or fire they will need to clear an area ½ mile in every direction.

The condensate trains will run through neighborhoods in Raymondville, Harlingen, San Benito, Olmito, and Brownsville. None of these communities were given any prior notice. None of them have any say in any of this.

Centurion, the Port, the American Railroad Association, and Union Pacific don’t want to be bothered. They’ve provided the public with false reassurances and misleading answers.

Centurion claims that there will be only one train a week. But it is supposed to offload 160,000 barrels a day, an amount that translates to two trains a day. Centurion originally said about 120 cars per train but now says only 100. Operations were originally to start the 3rd Quarter of 2016, but now not until the summer of 2017.

They’re basically telling us that it’s not that big deal. Relax. The summer of 2017 is over a year away.

The American Railroad Association says railroad accidents have declined 45 percent since 2000. Fine. That says nothing about the health problems the diesel engines cause or the acceptability of the present rate of railroad accidents, and the lives lost, bodies broken, homes demolished, and so on, when accidents occur.

Union Pacific says it’s replacing wooden railroad ties with stronger concrete ties “in many areas” of the country. Here? Before the condensate trains start rolling through?

Union Pacific says it “regularly holds crude oil accident training for fire crews across the United States.” But here? Not yet.

And who’s supposed to pay for the training, special equipment, and public preparedness programs that should be put into place before the trains start rolling?

The Port and Centurion claim the operation will meet all federal rail safety standards. Those standards are inadequate. For example, they 1) don’t require the rail lines to carry liability insurance; 2) set no maximum length on trains (which can run a mile long); 3) don’t require regular rail line maintenance; 4) don’t speak to the increase in childhood deaths before age one from lung problems along diesel train routes or the increase in cancer rates along these routes; and 5) are to be phased in slowly over a ten year period.

Centurion says it will be using the newest, safest tanker cars. But even those experience side punctures at 12.3 mph, bulkhead breaches at 12 to 18 mph. The track speed limit is 50 mph.

Don’t we get to judge those standards ourselves to see if we want better here in the Rio Grande Valley?

By Scott Nicol

cantu

Three liquefied natural gas (LNG) companies have their sights on South Texas, looking to build massive industrial facilities next to Port Isabel and South Padre Island on land that currently consists of wetlands and wildlife habitat.

If they are built, they will be connected to Texas fracking fields by hundreds of miles of 42” wide pipeline that will slice through ranches and towns from Kingsville through Harlingen and down to Port Isabel.  As they process the gas to liquefy and export it they will emit huge amounts of toxic volatile organic compounds and other pollutants into air that the prevailing wind will carry into Port Isabel’s public schools.  They will also pump out greenhouse gases that will contribute to the global warming that already threatens South Padre Island with sea level rise and stronger hurricanes.

The companies state publicly that they will create hundreds of high-paying jobs, but in official filings Annova LNG was only willing to commit to 10 jobs at that would pay $36,000 per year.  In exchange for employing fewer Texans than a single Whataburger franchise, they want millions of dollars worth of tax breaks from the state and Cameron County.

The idea that anyone, whether politician or private citizen, would support such a bad deal seems ludicrous.  Yet many local politicians have lined up to do just that.

Cameron County needs elected officials who will stand up for its residents’ health and safety, and for a clean environment and economy.

That is why the Lower Rio Grande Valley Sierra Club is endorsing  Joseph Cantu for Cameron County Commissioner precinct 1 in the Democratic primary.

Joseph Cantu has long been an outspoken opponent of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals that have been proposed for the Brownsville Ship Channel.

When the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) held an “open house” last summer, allowing the LNG companies to set up displays and present sales pitches while restricting the public to giving statements to court reporters in a secluded corner, the Sierra Club teamed up with other local groups to stage a rally allowing residents to publicly air their concerns.  Joseph Cantu took the stage and laid out a cogent and impassioned argument for preserving our environment and rejecting LNG.

Last September Annova LNG asked the Cameron County Commissioners Court for a tax break valued at $25 million.  In the face of strong public opposition the Commissioners tabled, but did not reject outright, Annova’s request.  This will come before the Commissioners again, and it is likely that the other LNG companies will also ask for big tax breaks.

This is why this race is so important to the Sierra Club and to the voters of Cameron County.

In response to a questionnaire that the Sierra Club sent to all of the candidates, Cantu said, “I am categorically and vehemently opposed to giving tax abatements to any and all proposed LNG companies. The landscape, water and clean air will be changed in this area forever if LNG companies open here and there is no amount of money that will replace the health of our children and the resources in our community.”

In contrast the precinct 1 incumbent, Sofia Benavides, has repeatedly spoken in favor of the LNG companies.

In 2012 Benavides wrote a letter of support for Gulf Coast LNG on her official letterhead.  In 2015 she signed a letter to FERC that said, “I would like to offer my support to NextDecade, LLC in its development of its proposed multi-billion dollar, liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility, Rio Grande LNG.”  While the letter gives the impression that she is personally enthusiastic about the project, the wording appears to have been written by the LNG company.  Even though it was printed on her letterhead, it was bundled with 15 other letters of support that are nearly identical and were submitted to FERC by Rio Grande LNG.  The “I would like to offer my support” sentence is repeated almost word-for-word in all 15 letters.

Cameron County deserves a Commissioner who will work for the people rather than for polluting industries, who values clean air for school children and unspoiled habitat for wildlife, someone who understands that the millions of tourists who visit South Padre Island come to fish and swim don’t want to see a flare stack when they watch the sun set.

This is why the Lower Rio Grande Valley Sierra Club is endorsing Joseph Cantu for Cameron County Commissioner for precinct 1, and why it is so important for Cameron County voters to make their voices heard in the primaries between now and March 1.

Gas-Flare_featuredBY STEFANIE HERWECK      

 6.8 million metric tons of greenhouse gases (GHGs) per year.

That’s a conservative estimate of how much three proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) companies would pump into the atmosphere each year in order to liquefy their total capacity of gas for export.

That’s more than 40 times the GHGs currently emitted by standing sources in Cameron County.  It’s about as much as two coal-fired power plants would emit in a year, and approximately the same amount of GHG pollution produced to power 900,000 homes with electricity.

In other words, the LNG industrial complex would supersize the carbon footprint of the Rio Grande Valley.

This number includes the GHGs generated by burning natural gas, either at the LNG facilities or at a power plant, in order to fuel the liquefaction process.  It also accounts for the carbon dioxide that will be vented directly into the air during the gas refining process.  None of the LNG facilities have plans to capture this carbon dioxide.  GHGs are also released during the flaring that the companies will do to in order to release pressure from the system.

But the GHGs emitted in conjunction with the LNG terminals themselves are only a part of the total greenhouse gas footprint of LNG exports.

The liquefaction plants will be fed by natural gas extracted through fracking from the Eagle Ford Shale.  We know that natural gas production, especially shale gas production, is a leaky business.  Methane escapes throughout the process of drilling, gathering, refining and transporting the gas.

These so-called “fugitive” emissions have proved difficult to measure.  The EPA’s current official estimate is that 1.6 percent of the natural gas in the supply chain is leaking into atmosphere, but many scientists have criticized this low number, and reports this year (here and here) have suggested the agency is significantly underestimating methane emissions. In fact, aerial and satellite monitoring has detected much larger quantities of methane over shale regions. One such study found the Eagle Ford region could be leaking as much as 9 percent of what it produces into the atmosphere.

This is a serious problem because methane is a super-potent greenhouse gas—its warming potential is 86 times more than carbon dioxide over a 20 year period and 34 times more over 100 years.

LNG exports would certainly intensify this problem.  According to a U.S. Energy Information Administration report, 60 to 80 percent of the gas that LNG companies plan to export would have to come from new production—that means 60 to 80 percent more drilling and fracking in the Eagle Ford Shale and an even greater quantity of methane pollution.

The LNG companies argue that gas exports will still be good for the climate because they will replace coal in Europe and Asia. However, a Department of Energy study, using leakage rates that we now know are too low, found that when we account for the cradle-to-delivery GHG pollution of LNG exports, natural gas isn’t any better for the climate than burning local coal in China.  If we factor in the more likely higher rates of fugitive emissions, LNG exports are worse than coal in both China and Europe.

And what’s bad for the climate is fast becoming bad for business.  According to an analysis issued last week by the financial think-tank Carbon Tracker Initiative, a global agreement to keep warming under two degrees Celsius, which is the ultimate goal of the Paris climate talks, will preclude new major fossil fuel infrastructure projects.  Any carbon-intensive projects like the LNG export terminals risk becoming stranded assets in a world with emission limits.

In fact, the think-tank estimates that “Half of the supply in new LNG projects is unneeded and very little new capacity will be needed in the US and Canada in a 2 degree scenario.”

LNG exports are simply too dirty to be a part of the low- and zero-emissions solutions that we need to avert the most disastrous impacts of climate change.

By embracing and promoting the LNG industrial complex, our politicians and business leaders are chaining the Rio Grande Valley to a dying industry, one that would make the Valley a part of the climate change problem, rather than a region that contributes to climate solutions.

The Rio Grande Valley is a frontline community threatened by the worst ills of climate disruption—coastal flooding due to sea level rise and stronger tropical storms, as well as record-setting heat waves and extreme drought.  In addition to the human suffering these calamities could bring, they could also have severe impacts on our economy.

Investing in the carbon-intensive LNG industry would be fundamentally self-destructive, like someone diagnosed with lung cancer taking up smoking.

As a community we need to demand that our leaders stop ignoring climate change and reject the LNG industrial complex.

That’s why the Lower Rio Grande Valley Sierra Club invites the public to join us Sunday, December 6 at 2:00 pm at the Cameron County People’s Climate March at Washington Park in Brownsville.  For more information see the Cameron County People’s Climate March on Facebook.

Stefanie Herweck serves on the executive committee of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Sierra Club.

chapter 313 Annova

From Annova’s Appraise Value Limitation Application

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 31, 2015

Contact: Jim Chapman, jchapmanrgv@gmail.com (956) 571-0545

BROWNSVILLE, Texas—Annova LNG has publicly claimed that the liquefied natural gas export terminal that it has proposed for the Brownsville Ship Channel will bring scores of high-paying jobs to an economically depressed region. But in documents that Annova filed with the state of Texas in an attempt to dramatically slash the taxes it will pay on its facilities, they paint a very different picture.

Over the summer Annova submitted an application for an Appraised Value Limitation under Chapter 313 of the Texas Economic Development Act, which would artificially cap the taxable value of their facility far below its actual value, significantly reducing the taxes that they will pay each year.[1] This is a state incentive program that is meant to “create new, high-paying jobs in this state” by luring companies that might otherwise go to another state.[2] (see excerpt from application attached)

In Annova’s application, their response to the question “What is the number of new qualifying jobs you are committing to create?”:

Ten.

The annual wage that they commit to pay those 10 employees? $36,197.72.

On the application Annova also commits to create 80 “non-qualifying” jobs. A non-qualifying job could be a contractor or vendor, or less than full-time, or a position paying less than qualifying jobs, but Annova does not provide any information about them.

Ten jobs, or even 90 jobs if you include non-qualifying jobs, fall far short of the number Annova has been promising as they try to win support from politicians, chambers of commerce and EDCs. And the salary they list on the application is half that of what they have been publicizing.

In fact, the very same month that Annova submitted its application for a tax break Annova’s president, David Chung, wrote in the Monitor that “once operational, the terminal would employ up to 165 workers at a base wage of $70,000.”[3]

“Annova tells us that this will be an employment bonanza when they need public support, but when they have to commit in writing, the number of promised new jobs drops to less than a Whataburger franchise,” says Stefanie Herweck of Save RGV from LNG, a broad coalition opposed to the projects. “The RGV needs real, sustainable jobs, not Annova’s smoke and mirrors.”

Under the Appraised Value Limitation and Tax Credit program Annova hopes to cap the taxable value of its $2.9 billion facility at $25 million, or less than 1% of the amount invested. Annova’s application packet includes a report on the benefits that they claim they will bring to the state, including, they say, $34,389,000 per year in state and local taxes. But in a footnote they admit that that figure does not take into account this massive reduction in the taxable value of their facility.

“The tax revenue that the Port Isabel School District loses out on from Annova will be paid instead through the Texas School Fund, meaning by all the taxpayers of Texas. Some call it an incentive, but it is really a shameless give-away of taxpayer dollars to a huge company that can well afford to pay its full taxes, just like the rest of us do. Why should we subsidize an industrial facility that will endanger our communities, pollute our air, and undermine our tourism economy?” asks Jim Chapman, Chair of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Sierra Club.

“Annova and the other LNG export terminals will be a huge blight, ruining the clear skies and natural beauty that are the drivers of our existing economy. Whether they create 10 jobs or 165, whether they pay their taxes or not, LNG is not worth the cost,” Save RGV from LNG’s Herweck asserted. “And if we cannot trust these companies to be honest, we would be fools to hitch the future of our communities, our children’s health and the world that they will grow up in, to their promises.”

The job numbers revelations come as the group Save RGV from LNG, a coalition of groups and individuals opposed the LNG complex, hosts a community meeting in McAllen today, Monday, August 31 at 6:00 pm at the Historic Cine El Rey Theatre, and as the Laguna Vista and South Padre Island city governments consider resolutions to oppose the LNG export terminal projects on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively.

###

Save RGV from LNG is a coalition of Rio Grande Valley residents who have come together to oppose the construction of liquefied natural gas export terminals near Port Isabel and South Padre Island. For more information please visit www.savergvfromlng.com

The Lower Rio Grande Valley Sierra Club works to preserve human health and the environment in south Texas from Laredo to South Padre Island.  Please visit www.valleygreenspace.blogspot.com

__________________________________

[1] Annova’s application can be viewed at http://www.texasahead.org/tax_programs/chapter313/applicants/

[2] Chapter 313 of the Texas state tax code: http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/TX/htm/TX.313.htm

[3] David Chung. “Explaining LNG projects in Brownsville Port.“ The Monitor. June 24, 2015. http://www.themonitor.com/opinion/commentary-explaining-lng-projects-in-brownsville-port/article_9b48594c-193f-11e5-8be6-fb71c3391c36.html