Voices Heard: Students protest UTRGV’s agreement with LNG company

BROWNSVILLE — The Environmental Awareness Club at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley held a demonstration yesterday afternoon at the Student Union in Brownsville to protest against the memorandum of understanding between UTRGV and NextDecade LLC, a developer of Rio Grande Liquefied Natural Gas or LNG, that was signed in early September.

Five students from UTRGV’s Edinburg campus commuted to the Brownsville campus to support their peers in calling on President Guy Bailey’s office and voicing their opposition to the university’s agreement.

They set up a table inside the union with a banner reading “Save RGV from LNG,” as well as a poster with Bailey’s office number for students to call.

Julissa Roman is the president of the Environmental Awareness Club at UTRGV and cites a lack of community and citizen involvement in major decision-making processes at UTRGV.

“As a student, this kind of upsets me because I’m not for oil and gas and to be represented in that way, as a university, is upsetting, especially when they didn’t ask for our input,” the second-year student said. “And as an environmental major, I plan to do future research at the Island and study our ecosystem … LNG would ruin exactly what that is.”

The students were approached by university police and asked to exit the union and take their protest outside because of “classes and offices going on.”

Realizing there was no citation from the handbook of operating procedure and they were not causing any noise, they stood their ground and the officers retreated. Officers would not say if they were ordered to ask students to exit the union.

Rebekah Hinojosa, conservation organizer for the Sierra Club, attended the event and said the community would be at risk.

“There are going to be a lot of hazardous air pollution being released into the air,” Hinojosa said, “near communities like Long Island Village in Port Isabel.”

She went on to add that an implausible evacuation route through Highway 100 for all of Port Isabel would be of greater risk to citizens should something go wrong with the pipeline. The demonstration also was attended by two Texas Southmost College students, Yelena Cisneros and Deborah Contreras.

Roman charges a lack of oversight on various levels with UTRGV administration.

“There’s no transparency, and that’s what bothers me about our president most,” she said.