Texas Activists Sit-In at DOT in Washington Over Offshore Oil Export Plans
Four local weather activists from Texas and Louisiana had been arrested in Washington Wednesday morning after internet hosting a sit-in at the Department of Transportation that would resolve on the primary of 4 proposed offshore oil terminals in the Gulf of Mexico as early as subsequent week.
Activists say the terminals, that are anticipated so as to add 6.5 million barrels a day to the nation’s oil export capability, would conflict squarely with the Biden administration’s aggressive local weather targets to scale back greenhouse fuel emissions and allow a long time of development in US fossil gas manufacturing .
“We are asking President Biden and [Transportation Secretary] Pete Buttigieg to get entangled and be a local weather chief and never approve this oil export mission,” said Melanie Oldham, founder of Citizens for Clean Air & Clean Water of Freeport and Brazoria County, who traveled from Texas to attend the sit-in, but wasn’t there arrested. “We hope that they follow what they preach, what they’ve informed us in their campaigns.”
Offshore terminals 30 miles into the Gulf would permit the world’s largest tankers to supply oil straight from Texas, the place oil exports have skyrocketed since Congress lifted an export ban in 2015. Currently, a scarcity of entry to deep water is hampering export development. Texas’ Permian Basin is setting data and costs are hovering, forcing smaller ships to laboriously haul oil from Texas coastal depots to bigger ships ready miles offshore.
The 4 proposed offshore terminals, all in Texas, would considerably improve capability for the US oil trade, which hit its month-to-month export document of three.8 million barrels per day in July.
Last month, the US Environmental Protection Agency quietly granted its first allow for one of many tasks — the Sea Port Oil Terminal (SPOT), collectively developed by Enterprise, Enbridge and Chevron 30 miles off the coast of Freeport, Texas. The EPA’s motion got here after a three-year assessment that met with sturdy public opposition.
The Department of Transport’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) may announce its determination on the terminal as early as subsequent week.
The contingent of activists from the Gulf Coast and past, a few of whom supposed to be arrested, noticed Wednesday’s sit-in as a last-ditch effort to thwart the mission.
“We will not leave until we hear that the Maritime Administration will not approve this project,” stated Robin Schneider, Austin-based director of the Texas Campaign for the Environment, earlier than her arrest Wednesday morning. In the night, she and others had been charged with unlawful entry and launched.
Growing oil manufacturing, Schneider stated, contradicts commitments introduced by Biden and Buttigieg to speed up the transition away from fossil fuels.
The Maritime Administration’s 890-page assertion, launched in July, stated the Sea Port Oil Terminal would produce greenhouse fuel emissions equal to 233 million tons of carbon dioxide per yr (about 4 p.c of complete US emissions in 2020). Meanwhile, the Biden administration guarantees a steep discount in emissions over the subsequent seven years.
During three public hearings over a three-year interval, Oldham and different Gulf Coast activists requested regulators to not permit the seaport terminal close to their group. According to Earthworks, which supported the marketing campaign, greater than 40,000 individuals submitted official feedback in opposition to the mission by the tip of 2021.
On Oct. 5, Oldham gave a 20-minute PowerPoint presentation to the EPA in Dallas, in which she described her small city as constrained by oil tasks and congested with air pollution.
“We were shocked when the EPA released this statement,” stated Oldham, a 63-year-old bodily therapist from Freeport. “We just don’t get it.”
Though EPA’s letter of advice is dated Oct. 7, it took a month to look on-line, leaving Oldham and different activists rapidly arranging a last-minute journey to Washington earlier than a closing determination was made.
“I’m not sure why it’s taking so long for them to release these very important updates,” stated Ethan Buckner, a senior supervisor at Earthworks, which sponsored journey bills for a few of the protesters. “We were not aware of the recommendation being made until last week.”
While supporting the seaport proposal, the EPA wrote that “more emphasis is needed to ensure that environmental justice and climate change considerations are included in the project to protect overburdened communities.”
The Maritime Authority’s impression assertion stated that consuming the oil the offshore terminal hoped to ship by 2025 would have an annual “social cost” of as much as $18 billion — international monetary harm related to it the impression of emissions on agricultural productiveness, human well being, biodiversity loss, excessive climate and sea stage rise.
It additionally warned of great impacts on coastal water provides and aquatic ecosystems in the occasion of a spill.
A spokesman for Enterprise Products Partners, the dad or mum firm of the proposed terminal, declined to touch upon the story. The EPA and the DOT’s transport administration didn’t reply to requests for remark.
The EPA’s approval of the offshore terminal follows September’s rejection of the same mission, the Bluewater Texas terminal off the coast of Corpus Christi, the place the company ordered the mission to scale back deliberate air air pollution by 95 p.c and reapply .
Support from environmental businesses offers the seaport terminal a transparent lead in the race to construct the Gulf’s first new offshore facility. The solely Louisiana Offshore Oil Port working at the moment was constructed in the Nineteen Seventies to import overseas crude oil, however its amenities had been reworked after the US export ban was lifted. According to the Global Energy Monitor, as much as 150,000 barrels of oil per day will be processed there.
The 4 newly deliberate offshore terminals would every have ten occasions the capability. These embody: the Sea Port Oil Terminal, designed for two million barrels per day; Texas Gulf Link, additionally off the coast of Freeport, designed for 1.1 million barrels per day; Blue Marlin Offshore Port offshore close to Houston, designed for 1.9 million barrels per day; and Bluewater Texas earlier than Corpus Christi, designed for 1.5 million barrels per day.
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A string of recent coastal liquefied pure fuel terminals are additionally being proposed between Louisiana and the Rio Grande — a parallel try and export the opposite bounty of Texas’ fracking increase, methane fuel.
EPA’s endorsement of the seaport terminal stated the company will “pull every lever to make tangible advances in justice, environmental justice and civil rights while providing immediate assistance to local communities.”
“Historically, facilities have been erected, expanded and the pollution burden increased in already vulnerable communities,” it stated.
The statements ring hole to Gulf Coast advocates, who for years have informed federal authorities that present air pollution in their communities meant the terminal needs to be rejected.
“We’re overloaded now,” Oldham stated. “It’s like a big chemical soup here.”
Every yr since 1992, the EPA has rated Brazoria County as “severe” or “severe” violations of federal ozone requirements.
BASF, the world’s largest chemical producer, operates a posh with 26 crops in Freeport. Dow Chemical calls its native website “the largest integrated chemical manufacturing facility in the western hemisphere.” (Environment America this yr named it the nation’s second-biggest water polluter and primary in Texas.)
The SI Group operates a chemical plant. Phillips 66 refines gasoline out of city and hundreds compressed methane into tankers at its LPG terminal in Freeport. Another fuel terminal, Freeport LNG, stays offline as a result of an explosion and fireplace in June launched unspecified quantities of carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide and risky natural compounds into Freeport’s air.
All of this in a metropolis of 10,600 the place non-Hispanic whites make up simply 16 p.c of the overall inhabitants, in comparison with 40 p.c in Texas as an entire, and Hispanics make up 64 p.c.
If fossil-fuel tasks actually created prosperity, as officers usually declare, Oldham stated, Freeport would have seen it by now. Instead, the small city, flanked by large trade, has a poverty charge of 26 p.c – in comparison with 14 p.c in Texas as an entire.
“As far as I know, it will not benefit our community in any way,” Oldham stated of the proposed offshore terminal. “All that will benefit from this are Chevron, Enbridge and Enterprise.”
Dylan Baddour studies on the power sector and environmental justice in Texas. A Houston native, he labored in the enterprise division of the Houston Chronicle, coated the US-Mexico border for worldwide media, and for a number of years reported from Colombia for media shops together with The Washington Post, BBC News and The Atlantic. He additionally spent two years investigating armed teams in Latin America for Facebook’s international safety division earlier than returning to Texas journalism. Baddour holds a bachelor’s diploma in Journalism and Latin American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. He has lived in Argentina, Kazakhstan and Colombia and is fluent in Spanish.