LNG firms gain approval after FERC review

Shown is the Port of Brownsville ship channel. Special to The Crier

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave its approval Thursday to three companies planning to build multi-billion-dollar liquefied natural gas export facilities at the Port of Brownsville.

Texas LNG, Annova LNG and NextDecade Corp., which calls its facility Rio Grande LNG, were given permission for proposed export terminals. If all three are built, it would represent a combined investment of $38.7 billion at the port. NextDecade’s Rio Bravo Pipeline also received FERC approval, as did a proposed expansion of an LNG facility in Corpus Christi.

“I’m very proud of the hard work that the Commission and its staff have undertaken to continue our processing of LNG applications,” FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee 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.”

The Sierra Club is one of several organizations to oppose the plants.

“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. “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.”

The environmental group claims the LNG tanker ships will take two to three hours to travel up and down the Brownsville Ship Channel and will disrupt the shrimping industry in the Laguna Madre area. They also say the tankers will come within feet of the popular beaches on South Padre Island.

The Sierra Club says all three projects still require approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Texas LNG is still awaiting a biological opinion from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and neither Texas LNG nor Annova LNG have been granted air pollution permits from state regulators.

Maria Galasso, a Laguna Vista resident who serves on the Save RGV board, said, “People drive down from all over Texas and the United States to come to the beach at South Padre Island because we offer a pristine coast line and clean air that’s not polluted by the petrochemical industry the way it is in Galveston and Corpus Christi. If we lose that, we lose the linchpin of our beach tourism, nature tourism and real estate market.”

According to a news release from FERC, Texas LNG plans in Brownsville call for building and operating facilities to export approximately 4 million metric tons per year of natural gas as LNG. The Rio Grande LNG Terminal and associated Rio Bravo Pipeline Project would export 27 million metric tons per year, and the Annova LNG Brownsville Project would export up to 6 million metric tons per year.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission says all four LNG proposals still have applications before the U.S. Department of Energy seeking authorization to export gas to countries without Free Trade Agreements with the United States.

Over the years, Cameron County commissioners have voted in favor of giving some of the companies tax abatements.

In 2017, the county approved a $373 million tax abatement for Rio Grande LNG, and on Oct. 1 Commissioners voted in favor of a tax abatement agreement for Annova LNG where the company will pay $500,000 annually over the 10 years of the abatement.

NextDecade Corporation announced engineering, procurement and construction agreements with Bechtel, the country’s largest construction company.

Texas LNG announced in March 2017 that it had selected Samsung Engineering Company Ltd. and KPR Inc. to perform engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) for its planned 4-million-ton-peryear plant at Brownsville.

There are four other projects still pending before FERC.

Herald reporter Steve Clark contributed to this report.