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Brownsville resolution

Residents of Brownsville who helped pass an anti-border wall resolution

  1. Have an initial planning meeting. Find like-minded fellow residents who can help you. You can recruit people to a meeting by talking to your friends and neighbors or by putting out an announcement on social media.
  2. Plan a strategy.
  • Identify your targets. Which commissioner or councilperson would be most likely to support the resolution? Who might oppose it? Is there anyone who may be undecided?
  • Identify allies. Who has influence over city officials that might help you? What organizations or individuals could you reach out to and ask for support?
  • Determine what resources each person on your team brings. Do they know a commissioner personally? Are they willing to write a version of the sample resolution adapted to your community? Are they able to help recruit people to attend City or County meetings?
  • Map out a timeline. Consider when the next commission or council meetings will be held. Set goals around those meetings.
  1. Draft a resolution. Adapt your resolution from Sample Draft Anti-Border Wall Resolution. You may want to do a little research to determine some specific statistics about your community.
  2. Find a sponsor member. Identify a potential sponsor of the resolution, and have a meeting to ask them to introduce it. Bring along supporters who have some power in the member’s district, leaders of an influential organization. If you have collected petitions, or a sign-on letter from organizations who support you, bring that as well. Get feedback on the language of your draft resolution.
  3. Meet with other members. When you have a committed sponsor, you will want to meet with other members. Again, you should bring along the member’s constituents and community leaders, as well as petition signatures and letters from organizations who support you. Ask the official for a commitment to support the resolution. If they do not commit, you may want to use additional tactics to pressure them, such calls from constituents or letters to the editor.
  4. Make a show of force at the hearing. In most cases, when a resolution is placed on the agenda, there is a hearing in the council or commission meeting. It is important to get many supporters to the meeting at which the resolution will be considered and to find a way to be visible—sit up front, bring signs or wear t-shirts or stickers, and sign up to talk about the border wall during the public comment period. You might also ask people to call or write their commissioner and the mayor in the days leading up to the hearing. Make sure local press will be at the hearing and arrange for spokespeople to give statements to them that incorporate your group’s main talking points. (See No Border Wall Talking Points and Draft Resolution.)

Questions? Need help organizing an intial planning meeting? Contact lrgvsierraclub@gmail.com

Anti-Border Wall Resolutions Passed by Border Municipalities:

Brownsville, Texas Resolution

Hidalgo County, Texas Resolution

El Paso, Texas Resolution

San Diego, California Resolution (not yet confirmed)

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La Lomita No Border Wall Festival procession - courtesy Scott Nicol

2007 La Lomita procession on the US IBWC levee

 

On August 12  religious leaders from different faiths will lead border residents and visitors from across the country in a sunrise procession in opposition to the proposed border wall that would slice through communities here in the Rio Grande Valley. The procession will set out at 7:00 am from Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in the border town of Mission, Texas and end at Historic La Lomita Mission, the still-active Catholic shrine that gave the town of Mission its name.  The Mission is located behind the levee on which the Trump administration wants to build the levee-border wall and so would be cut off from the rest of the United States, if the wall is built.

la lomita and levee 2017

La Lomita chapel with the US IBWC levee behind it, where the border wall would be built

 

Those who make the four-mile walk will be greeted with mariachi music.  Starting at 9:00 am on the mission grounds, speakers will address the social and environmental impacts inflicted by border walls, as well as the harms inflicted by the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant policies.  Afterwards we will enjoy a community picnic on the mission grounds.

The goal of this event is to present to the rest of the nation the reality of life on the border.  Border communities are some of the safest in the United States, and we reject border walls, the targeting of communities of color, and the militarization of our home.

la lomita shrine 2017

Shrine in the La Lomita chapel with prayers

 

Through the procession itself and through music, speeches and poetry, we will reaffirm the culture and history of the Rio Grande Valley and highlight the ways that our communities are connected to the river itself and to our neighbors in Mexico.  We’ll also call attention to the damage that Trump’s planned border walls would do, cutting off people’s homes, stripping farmers of their land, closing our parks, and devastating our ecologically sensitive wildlife refuges. Finally, we’ll remember the plight of migrants and refugees who are funneled by walls into remote areas where they are more likely to die from dehydration and exposure.


If you go:

Dawn Procession
Begins at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church
620 N Dunlap Ave, Mission, TX
Arrive at 7:00 am
Important: bring water and sun protection
***Free ‘No Border Wall’ T-shirts to all marchers while supplies last***

Morning Rally
Begins at 9:00 am
La Lomita Mission and Park
See map
***Free food and drinks, activities for kids***

Sign up and invite friends on Facebook


Event Flyers to Distribute

Save the Mission flyer English

Save the Mission Flyer Spanish


Sponsors List

A Resource in Serving Equality
Accion de Gracia Inmigracion
Action South Texas
Awesome Women in Action
Call to Action
Center for Biological Diversity
Chimney Park Resort
Church World Service
Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, US Provinces
Daughters of Charity of the U.S.A
Defenders of Wildlife
Earth Guardians-Rio Grande Valley
Earth Justice
Environmental Awareness Club at UTRGV
Friends of Estero Llano Grande State Park
Friends of Friendship Park
Friends of the Wildlife Corridor
Frontera Audubon
Fuerza del Valle Workers Center
Governing Foundation
Harlingen PFLAG
Hidalgo County Democratic Party
Hidalgo County Young Democrats
Hope Border Institute/Instituto Fronterizo Esperanza
Interfaith Welcome Coalition of San Antonio
La Union del Pueblo Entero
McAllen American Federation of Teachers
Mennonite Central Committee
Mi Familia Vota
Migrant Rights Collective of Houston
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Association of Social Workers
National Butterfly Center
National Council of Jewish Women
North American Butterfly Association
Northern Jaguar Project
Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church
People for Peace and Justice
Proyecto Azteca
Rio Grande Valley Texas Democratic Women
Sierra Club
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas
Socialist Party USA
Southwest Environmental Center
Southwestern Association of Naturalists
Stonewall Democrats of the Rio Grande Valley
Texas Civil Rights Project
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Hidalgo County
United for Reproductive and Gender Equity
United We Dream
West Hidalgo County Tejano Democrats
Wildlands Project

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The Lower Rio Grande Valley Sierra Club expresses appreciation for the letter and resolution opposing border walls that Hidalgo County Drainage District #1 unanimously approved at their May 2nd public meeting. We believe that taking a strong stance against all border walls best reflects the views of County residents, and we applaud you for advocating for what is in the best interests of your constituents.

However, we request that the Drainage District correct inaccurate statements that have been made in regards to the status of our river-levee system and the purported role that proposed levee-border walls would play.

We have been in contact with both IBWC and FEMA, and we have been told in no uncertain terms that the river levees have been completely rehabilitated. The work was done by IBWC with $220 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This work was completed last year according to an email we have from Ms. Sally Spener, Foreign Affairs Office with IBWC.

All of the segments of levees along the river where the proposed border wall would go have been submitted for accreditation by IBWC and are tagged “certification submitted” on the Levee Improvement Status maps. In her email of March 3, 2017, Ms. Spener explains,

“Certification Submitted” means that the USIBWC has submitted documentation to FEMA indicating that USIBWC certifies the levee as meeting FEMA criteria. In that sense, the levee rehabilitation part of the accreditation process is complete. FEMA accreditation also depends on local communities addressing local drainage issues on the land side of the levees.” (Emphasis ours.)

So, work on the levees is in fact complete, and they are ready to be accredited. On a call of April 25, 2017, Mr. Larry Voice, project manager with FEMA, echoed this, saying that the levees were rebuilt to “structural certification,” meaning that the levees themselves, in their current state, would be accredited by FEMA. The reason the system is not accredited already has nothing to do with the structural integrity or the height of the levees. Instead, the accreditation is waiting on work that needs to be done on the land side, or north of the levees, NOT to the levees themselves.  Ms. Spener was very clear about what exactly those land side repairs are in her email to us:

“In many communities, during non-flood conditions, local rainfall from the land side of the levee drains into the river via gates in the levee.  However, during flood operations, the gates are closed to prevent the flooded river from flowing out onto the land side of the levees.  There needs to be a plan for how to handle the land side runoff during these conditions, such as by pumping it over the levee.  The drainage infrastructure varies among the communities but this is the general idea of how there needs to be a local drainage plan in order for FEMA to accredit a flood control system.  We can fix the levees but there are still other flood control concerns that need to be addressed by local jurisdictions.”

So, FEMA is not waiting on repairs to IBWC’s levees, they are waiting on work done to the other drainage infrastructure which is the responsibility of various local entities and drainage districts. This work includes pumps and gates and drains which are not related to the structural integrity or height of the levees.

For an example of the drains that run through the levees which, according to IBWC and FEMA, may still need work, see the images here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B95V1oklwdAnZk9PZ1hRS0tMUlU

Therefore, a levee-border wall will do nothing to address our flooding issues or FEMA accreditation. Those remaining issues all revolve around allowing inland water to drain into the river, even when the levee gates must be closed due to river flooding.

However, in his May 2 statement before the Drainage District Board, District Manager Raul Sesin said that because the flood maps were not yet accredited, “we’re still back where we were in 2008.”  This is clearly misleading, as it leaves the listener with the impression that our levees are in the same state of disrepair that necessitated the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act construction.

Referring to the levee-border wall proposal, Mr. Sesin said that “we felt like we could get closer to accreditation by this method.”  Later in his address to the Drainage District Board he says that he has spoken repeatedly with Larry Voice at FEMA.  The Sierra Club has also spoken repeatedly with Mr. Voice in recent weeks, and he told us that the levees do not need to be made taller or otherwise structurally improved beyond work that he would characterize as regular maintenance.  Presumably he told Mr. Sesin the same thing.

Suggesting that FEMA accreditation will be solved by a levee-border wall is inaccurate. IBWC and FEMA have both stated that it is the County that needs to resolve the interior drainage issues—drainage gates and pumps rather than the structural integrity or height of the levees—in order to be accredited.

In the same May 2 speech Mr. Sesin brought up the specter of Hurricane Katrina, noting that the levees that were breached in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina came down because of weaknesses on the landside. “Because the land side wasn’t adequately studied or certified I guess and that’s what eroded away and that’s what caused the levee to fail, so that’s my understanding of FEMA’s position,” he said.

This is also not accurate. Most of the massive flooding of New Orleans was caused by the collapse of two concrete floodwalls (the Industrial Canal and the 17th Street Canal), types of structures which don’t exist in Hidalgo County or the Rio Grande Valley.

Another point in need of correction was contained in the February 21, 2017 levee-border wall proposal letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kelly and members of Congress that was on Mr. Sesin’s letterhead and signed by Judge Garcia. It says,

“The original intent was to complete approximately 50 miles of a river protective levee/wall entire length of Hidalgo County which is the most populous county along the Texas-Mexico border.”

This “original intent” idea is then backed up by Dannebaum and L&G’s proposed levee-border wall map and construction schedule which accompanied the letter, which lists a “phase 1” being the 2008 levee-border walls and a “phase 2” which was never built.

In fact, there never was a phase 2. The Environmental Stewardship Plan issued by Customs and Border Protection in July of 2008 said, “The concrete flood protection structure/concrete fence will not be continuous, but will be constructed in seven distinct sections.” The total length of those seven sections was 20.37 miles.  There was no indication in that document or any other that has been publicly released that more levee-border walls were planned for Hidalgo County.

When Sierra Club members asked Mr. Sesin about this discrepancy at our meeting at the office of Judge Garcia on April 20, he said that what was called the “original intent” in the letter and “phase 2” in the map and construction schedule was not a plan put forward or accepted by the Department of Homeland Security, but instead the aspiration of the contractors, Dannenbaum Engineering and L and G Construction. Nevertheless, the Drainage District presented in their original it as though it was a part of an existing contract with DHS that was waiting to be fulfilled.

Finally, there is completely different story circulating that the levees need to be raised two feet in order to be accredited. On April 24, 2017 Mayor Darling gave a report at the McAllen City Commission meeting saying that FEMA was “requesting” that the levees be built up two-feet higher. He said, “They don’t call it a certification program but it does involve recognition of certain flood preventions that involve insurance premiums.” Based on this information, Mayor Darling said he would not rescind his February letter supporting a levee-border wall.

This claim that the levee needs to be raised two feet was repeated by Judge Garcia at the April 18 Drainage meeting and again at the May 2 meeting.

In our phone call with Mr. Voice of FEMA on April 25, he stated that his office was trying to find out who Mayor Darling spoke to and how he could have been confused into thinking that the levees needed to be built up another two feet. He stated that for certification (and therefore for insurance purposes), what was needed was 3-feet of freeboard in the case of a 100-year-flood event, and that’s what IBWC had built the levees to. He did not know where the 2 feet request idea had come from. He noted that IBWC owned the levees, not FEMA. He said that he understood that the height of the levees was spelled out by treaty with Mexico.  He also said, “We don’t tell people what to do with their levees. That is up to the local communities.”

We got in contact with Mayor Darling by phone on April 26, 2017, and he told us that he had received the information about the 2 feet request not from FEMA, as The Monitor had reported, but from the HCDD #1. He said that Assistant City Manager Michelle Lefwich had made the call, and this is what HCCD #1 told her.

We are calling on Hidalgo County Drainage District #1 to clarify the actual status of the river levees for the public and for local leaders, and to tell County residents exactly what work remains to be done on our flood control system and what that work entails. If accreditation is an urgent issue, County residents deserve to hear the Drainage District’s concrete plans to address it, and all statements should align with the facts as outlined by the IBWC and FEMA.

Sincerely,

 

Stefanie Herweck

Executive Committee Member, Lower Rio Grande Valley Sierra Club

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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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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

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The Sierra Club has learned that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will host a scoping hearing on August 11 regarding the liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facilities that have been proposed for the Brownsville Ship Channel.  The hearing will run from 1pm until 8pm at the Port Isabel Event and Cultural Center and is open to the public.

It is critical that concerned South Texas residents attend the August 11 meeting and submit comments.

In a highly unusual move, FERC has decided to hold a single scoping meeting for all three of the LNG facilities that have filed so far – Annova LNG, Texas LNG, and Rio Grande LNG (formerly called Next Decade LNG).  Normally separate projects would go through the FERC permitting process separately, and FERC has said that each will be required to develop its own Environmental Impact Statement in order to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act.  The three projects will have different sized footprints (though all will be in sensitive, irreplaceable ecosystems); they will handle and export different amounts of natural gas; they will use different technologies to purify and super-cool the gas; and only one has discussed plans for the pipeline that will bring gas to it.  Holding a combined meeting for all three is certain to sow confusion in the general public.

Map showing the basins and approximate locations of LNG leases.

Map showing the basins and approximate locations of LNG leases.

The Sierra Club has submitted pre-filing comments laying out some key concerns about these three projects:

Sierra Club – Annova LNG FERC comments

Sierra Club – Texas LNG FERC comments

Sierra Club – Next Decade LNG FERC comments

 

While these are three separate projects, the Sierra Club identified a number of negative impacts that are common to all of them.  As pointed out in its comments on Next Decade LNG, these include:

“[All three LNG export facilities] will receive via pipeline from the Eagle Ford fracking wells will only be around 91% or 92% pure methane.  To supercool it for export they need to get that gas to well over 99% pure.  So they will be refining the gas before they refrigerate it, taking out impurities including carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, volatile organic compounds, and mercury.  Some of these toxins will be released into the environment.  VOCs such as benzene and toluene are powerful carcinogens and neurotoxins. The only safe level is zero. It is therefore critical that residents know the quantities of these toxins that will be emitted, should the plant be approved, and an air monitoring regime be established.  The prevailing wind will carry the emitted carcinogenic compounds, along with substances that trigger asthma attacks, straight to nearby Laguna Heights, and to Port Isabel’s schools.”

“[All three LNG export facilities] will be built less than 3 miles from the Wal-Mart in Port Isabel, and about 3 miles south of the Port Isabel Junior High and High School.  If there is a breach of either the LNG facility or an LNG tanker there is the potential for the release of a vapor cloud, which in the proper concentration could travel for miles before igniting and burning too intensely for first responders to extinguish.  For this reason Sandia National Laboratories has recommended a 2.2-mile outer hazard zone LNG tanker ships.  Chemical engineer and LNG safety expert Dr. Jerry Havens recommends a 3-mile hazard zone.”

“[All three LNG export facilities] would fill wetlands and destroy mangroves to prepare the site for its export facility.  Wetlands are critical nurseries for fish, shrimp, oysters, crabs, and other aquatic life that are important both ecologically and commercially.  They also filter runoff and prevent coastal erosion, which reduces turbidity and improves the cleanliness of the water.”

“The industrialization and pollution that [all three LNG facilites] will bring could erode important economic drivers such as commercial fishing, shrimping, and beach and nature tourism. Thousands of jobs here in the Rio Grande Valley depend on clean air, clean water and high quality fish and wildlife habitat.”

There are many, many more impacts, and the scale of the damage varies from project to project.  If one or all of these are built they will inflict tremendous, permanent damage upon the Lower Rio Grande Valley, transforming not only the area around Port Isabel and South Padre Island from places that focus on commercial and sport fishing, beach and nature tourism to polluted industrial zones, but with the dramatic increase in frack wells and pipelines that will feed them transforming the entire region for the worse.

This is why we must all come out and express our concerns about the severe impacts that these projects will have, and ensure that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission does not rubber stamp them.

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Next Decade enviro sensitive

It would be hard to imagine a project more damaging than NextDecade’s proposed Rio Grande LNG export terminal near Port Isabel, the largest of the five LNG export terminals proposed for the Brownsville ship channel.

The 1,000-acre industrial complex would be among the largest LNG terminals in the United States and would sprawl along Highway 48 from Brownsville to Port Isabel for two and a half miles.

Four 17-story high LNG storage tanks would tower over six enormous natural gas liquefaction “trains”—block mazes of pipes that stretch for hundreds of yards. At only six miles from South Padre Island, the plant would be an industrial blight on the horizon for residents and tourists alike, threatening property values and nature and beach tourism industries that bring in hundreds of millions of dollars and support thousands of jobs.

NextDecade’s plans call for two 300-megawatt gas-fired power plants built onsite to power their operations in addition to two gas-fired turbines within each liquefaction train. This is an astounding amount of energy produced and consumed. In fact, Rio Grande LNG dwarfs Brownsville Public Utility’s Silas Ray Power Plant in its power production and use and, operating at full capacity, could rival the new Tenaska Brownsville 800-megawatt power plant.

But Valley residents will be getting none of the energy and all of the pollution.

schematic

Although NextDecade has not reported the pollution they expect Rio Grande LNG to emit, we can easily estimate it based on the expected emissions report by Sabine Pass LNG, another equally large six-train export terminal near Port Arthur that is under construction. Rio Grande LNG could pump out 5,790 tons per year of nitrogen oxides—the chemicals that give smog its brown color and cause respiratory irritation. That’s 300 times more than Brownsville’s Silas Ray power plant emits. It could spew 8,837 tons per year of poisonous carbon monoxide, which is especially harmful to pregnant women and their fetuses. That’s a 15 percent increase in overall carbon monoxide pollution in Cameron County.

We also could expect 305 tons of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) per year. VOCs such as benzene and toluene are powerful carcinogens and neurotoxins. The only safe level is zero. Significant emissions of particulate matter and sulfur dioxide are also associated with a plant of this size.

Residents would also be forced to accept the risk of this inherently dangerous fuel. LNG is dangerous because it is such a concentrated source of fuel, and the Rio Grande LNG export terminal will be storing and shipping so much of it. In the event of a spill LNG evaporates and can form a flammable vapor cloud that can drift along the ground for miles before igniting. LNG fires burn so hot that first responders cannot approach, and the fires must burn themselves out.

Rio Grande LNG will also use fuels such as propane and ethylene in the refrigeration process to cool the gas, and these are even more volatile than the methane itself.

NextDecade will send out an estimated six to seven fully-loaded LNG carrier ships each week which will pass within a third of a mile of crowded Isla Blanca Beach and within one mile of Schlitterbahn, putting the county park and water park in the high- and medium-hazard zones developed by Sandia National Laboratories in the case of an intentional breach. Rio Grande LNG’s liquefied natural gas terminal will be built just 2.7 miles from Port Isabel. This is just outside Sandia’s 2.2-mile outer hazard zone, but it violates the three-mile hazard zone recommended by chemical engineer and LNG safety expert Dr. Jerry Havens.

The risks to the public do not end there. The Rio Grande LNG plant would be fed by NextDecade’s new 139-mile long double pipeline with pipes 42 inches in diameter, which would bring natural gas from outside of Corpus Christi through the ranchlands, the Valley and along Highway 48. Along the route, they would build two additional compressor stations to keep the pipeline gas at high pressures. According to the company, this pipe will slice through land owned by 150 families, who will be forced to make way for the double pipeline and its 120-foot right-of-way or have their property condemned under eminent domain.

The gas in these pipelines will not be odorized, making leaks difficult to detect by the public and putting more people at risk. And Texas is sorely lacking in state pipeline inspectors. The Railroad Commission, charged with pipeline safety in Texas, says that it does not have enough inspectors to ensure pipeline safety in the state.

Rio Grande LNG would have harmful effects on wildlife, too. The site’s position between the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge and the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge makes it a key component of the wildlife corridor, a decades-long project to connect the Valley’s few remaining areas of habitat. The noise, lights, and activity of the facility would impede wildlife travel, including that of the endangered ocelot, far beyond the terminal’s boundaries.

Over half of the proposed terminal site is made up of wetlands, areas that act as marine nurseries to support fishing stocks. These are so valuable that they are protected by the Clean Water Act. But this protection is limited because the Army Corps of Engineers will allow Next Decade to “mitigate,” often by attempting to recreate or remediate wetlands elsewhere. Such trades are regularly criticized by ecologists who note that the many functions of natural wetlands are not so easily replaced.

“In LNG, everything is big,” according to Kathleen Eisenbrenner, the CEO of NextDecade LNG, and in fact, her Rio Grande LNG project is enormous—a monster that threatens to consume everything that is good about our coastal Texas home—our clean air, our security, and our natural fish and wildlife habitats.

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