UTRGV and NextDecade sign deal

BROWNSVILLE — University of Texas Rio Grande Valley President Guy Bailey and NextDecade LNG chairwoman and CEO Kathleen Eisbrenner have signed a memorandum of understanding, signaling an agreement to push STEM-based education, facilitate research and job training for UTRGV students, and promote collaboration between industry and academia.

STEM stands for “science, technology, engineering and math.” NextDecade is one of three liquefied natural gas companies that have submitted plans to the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for permission to build natural gas liquefaction-export terminals at the Port of Brownsville.

NextDecade’s Rio Grande LNG project is the largest of the proposed plants, which have drawn the ire of environmentalists and opposition from some municipal entities, including the South Padre Island city council, the Port Isabel city commission and the Laguna Vista town council.

LNG proponents, such as area chambers of commerce and the port itself, tout the potential economic benefits to the region, while those opposed argue the economic payoff isn’t enough to offset safety, environmental and tourism concerns.

In light of the public relations war, the partnership with UTRGV could be seen as a strategic move to garner positive press. However, according to an email from company spokesman James Markham-Hill, there’s more to it than that.

“The partnership with UTRGV is an important part of our broader commitment to maximizing the benefits our project can bring to the RGV,” he said. “We continue to work extensively with business and educational organizations at every level because we believe this is the right way to do business, especially when you consider the scale of investment and job opportunities our project represents.”