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Archive for February, 2016

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.

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