US activists warn European LNG exports will hurt Gulf Coast communities most

By James Reynolds

EXPANDED pipelines along Louisiana’s Gulf Coast will impact on local economies and bring health risks to vulnerable groups, according to regional climate justice voices.

In a media briefing on May 3, Port Arthur Community Action Network (PACAN) founder John Beard warned residents would bear the brunt of environmental damage caused by a proposed expansion of the Gulf Coast pipeline network.

PACAN is a non-profit community organisation formed by residents to advocate for solutions to reduce environmental and public health hazards and to improve the quality of life in Port Arthur, Texas.

Nineteen LNG export facilities have been proposed along the Gulf Coast as new funding pours into infrastructure development.

In December 2021, the US became the world’s largest exporter of LNG, overtaking Qatar for the first time. The war in Ukraine continues to drive up demand for an alternative to Russian energy in Europe.

Mr Beard said: “What has happened is basically a death knell for us here on the Gulf Coast.

“The exportation of LNG [Liquefied Natural Gas] is simply going to take fracked gas from the Permian Basin in West Texas and transport it down here […] and that will create further degradation to our environment.”

He added: “While we commiserate with our friends in Europe because of the supply of gas, one of the things we want to say to them is that the best solution is not to ramp up or increase gas production or petrochemical production. The safest thing to do is to keep it in the ground because it’s poison.

“If we expand the work that we are doing in terms of renewables and other things such as solar and wind that don’t pollute nearly as much, we would have a better opportunity to save the planet.”

Around the country, 27 facilities stand to open or expand, with the potential to emit 117 million tons of carbon dioxide per year – more than 3.5 times the annual output of pre-pandemic London.

Proponents say the new industry will help struggling communities recover from unemployment levels worsened by the pandemic and recent hurricanes. In Texas alone, energy investment is expected to raise employment by 3.8 per cent by the end of the year.

Sempra Energy, owner of the Port Arthur Pipeline, was last month granted permission to build two new connecting pipelines in Texas and Louisiana.

As well as supporting local nonprofits, schools and business development groups, the project aims to create 3,000 new jobs in the area.

But in 2020, a consumer watchdog advised Sempra’s Californian subsidiary, Southern California Gas Co, should be fined $255mn for trying to sidestep energy efficiency rules and local gas bans.

The cancer rate in Port Arthur is eight per cent higher for men than the state average, and air pollution in Louisiana is linked to dozens of cases each year.

The Texas/Louisiana border is also still recovering from Hurricane Laura, which swept through the region in August 2020, disproportionately affecting BIPOC and low-income communities.

27.2 per cent of Port Arthur residents live below the poverty line, well above the 12.3 per cent national average.

Roishetta Ozane, founder of the Vessel Project, a non-profit providing mutual aid and disaster relief to residents in Louisiana, warned that the effects of natural disasters are made worse by industrial pollution.

She said: “It is imperative that we talk about what is causing these storms to intensify and what is causing our climate to warm so much, and that is the LNG and petrochemical [industry] that we have here.

“Folks are already scared. People have PTSD from the storms that happened in 2020 and 2021. People are still living in FEMA trailers with tarps on their roofs. […] We have residents who don’t have clean drinking water.

“And yet we are still having to have […] conversations about new LNG export terminals here along the Gulf. This is ridiculous. It’s time that we put people before policy and people before money.

“My message is just to support frontline communities, support programmes and projects that enhance our safety – not that harm us.”

Redaction Report approached Port Arthur Pipeline for comment.

Featured Image: Pixabay

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