Pollution or Progress? What’s Next for LNG Development in the Rio Grande Valley

Brownsville Port Commissioner Candidates Promise Renewed Push Towards Clean Industry

Key Facts & Toplines:

  • Liquified Natural Gas development in the RGV expands
  • Brownsville Port is the final frontier against Fossil Fuels
  • Port Commissioner Candidates Pledge Good Jobs

LNG Development in RGV

Construction is planned to begin this year in Brownsville, TX to build two proposed liquified natural gas (LNG) export plants, despite much community pushback citing environmental and frontline health concerns. The NextDecade backed Rio Grande LNG project proposes a new connecting pipeline as well as a (disproven and greenwashing tactic) carbon capture and storage facility to export Texas natural gas to other countries, raising domestic prices on families. The Glenfarne Group proposes the Texas LNG project next door to the Rio Grande LNG project at the Port of Brownsville.

From Trucha, a local multimedia nonprofit, Josue Ramirez adds that “Fossil fuel development such as Liquified Natural Gas impacts frontline communities like the RGV by risking our pristine Gulf Coast and the desecration of sacred Indigenous heritage. More fossil fuel infrastructure exacerbates the climate crisis which means hotter temperatures, more severe storms and bigger flooding for the RGV in the long run.” 

Climate advocates across the US recognized this, and organized attempts to push global banks away from the project. In March 2023, this action resulted in two French banks withdrawing financial commitments from Rio Grande LNG and Texas LNG. However, the Rio Grande LNG project reached a final investment decision on phase I of the project in July of last year. Texas LNG secured a contract with EQT Corp in April 2024. Since the Rio Grande LNG and Texas LNG projects already had the green light and will not be impacted by the recent move from the Biden administration’s pause on permitting new LNG export facilities, they may advance. It would be among eight existing and more than 20 proposed projects already permitted to be built, the full buildout of which would be equivalent to the annual climate pollution from 681 coal plants or 548 million additional cars. 

Brownsville Navigation District

You probably wouldn’t know it if you live outside of the Rio Grande Valley, but the Port of Brownsville (grantee for Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) No. 62) is ranked in the top three FTZs in the US. What was once a thriving shrimping area is now dedicated to commodities like petroleum products, steel, and metals. Still, it is the lone facility on the Gulf Coast free from fossil fuel refineries, chemical plants, and terminals and we must keep it that way. 

If NextDecade moves the project forward, then approximately 40,000 acres of land will be ripe for development – at everyone’s expense but the mega-rich oil and gas tycoons benefitting from it. The largest land-owning public port authority in the nation should not be transformed into a top producer for greenhouse gas emissions, we cannot afford damages of that scale. (For reference: 6.4 million tons of carbon-dioxide equivalent will be released by the export terminal and gas compressors each year).

Clean Campaigns

Working toward a brighter future for the Rio Grande Valley requires action from all of us, but several candidates are leading the way. Patrick Everitt, Andres Rios, and Josette Cruz Hinojosa combined their campaigns to run for the Brownsville Navigation District Commission, which has voting power over how the land along the shipping port is used. 

Cruz Hinojosa for Place 5 shared with us about the work of climate advocates in the RGV, saying "What I have seen is a "we" approach centered in unity and care. People here take lead and don't wait for change to come around through electoral systems. . .I want to make sure that we not only have access through Hwy 48 for wildlife, fishing and other recreational activities, but also have access to Garcia Pasture which is sacred land to the tribe.”

Additionally, the three candidates announced a Clean Campaign Pledge, where they promised and challenged others to commit “to reject campaign donations from corporations and business interests active at the Port of Brownsville.” Everitt is running for Place 1, Rios for Place 3, and Cruz Hinojosa for Place 5, each expressly for their community and not self-interest. It’s vital to support climate-friendly, community-first candidates like them, whether you live in the valley (and if you do, go vote for them!) or across the rest of the currently fossil-fuel riddled Gulf Coast.

Looking ahead