The Port of Brownsville is asking a judge to toss out a lawsuit filed by the City of Port Isabel to halt construction of three liquefied natural gas export terminals at the South Texas waterway.
In a Feb. 5 lawsuit, Port Isabel and two local residents accused the Port of Brownsville of negligence, public nuisance of strict liability for leasing land to the proposed Rio Grande LNG, Annova LNG and Texas LNG export terminals. Although the projects received federal permits in November, Port Isabel cited pollution and safety concerns in asking Judge Gloria Rincones with the 445th State District Court in Brownsville to issue an injunction to halt any construction activities.
The Port of Brownsville has since fired back in a motion asking Judge Rincones to toss out the lawsuit, arguing that the matter belongs in federal court because the three facilities received permits from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
“Having failed to convince FERC that the LNG terminals are not in the public interest or that the LNG terminals are environmentally unacceptable, the plaintiff’s claims are nothing more than an impermissible, collateral attack on FERC’s federally mandated exclusive jurisdiction over the siting, construction and operation of the proposed LNG terminals.”
The Great LNG Debate: Growing industry faces stiff opposition in Rio Grande Valley
If they land customer contracts and secure financing, the three plants will produce and export a combined 37 million metric tons of LNG per year. They will also bring a combined $38.75 billion of private investment, thousands of construction jobs and hundreds of permanent jobs to the Rio Grande Valley, one of the poorest regions in the United States.
With the Texas LNG export terminal bordering its extraterritorial jurisdiction limits, Port Isabel joined a coalition of Rio Grande Valley shrimpers, fishermen, environmentalists, neighbors and other communities working under the banner Save RGV From LNG to oppose the projects.
Opponents of the projects are expected to file a federal lawsuit to dispute the permit issued to Rio Grande LNG, the largest of the three project, but have fought the proposed plants at other levels. On top of fighting state air pollution permits, opponents convinced the Point Isabel Independent School District to vote down tax breaks for Rio Grande LNG and Annova LNG. The two projects later received tax breaks from the Cameron County Commissioners Court.
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