Port Isabel targets LNG construction, operation

BROWNSVILLE — The City of Port Isabel, the mayor of Port Isabel and a city commissioner have filed suit against the Brownsville Navigation District over its lease agreements with three liquefied natural gas companies that want to build LNG export terminals at the Port of Brownsville.

Mayor J.J. Zamora and Commissioner Martin Cantu are listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, filed in Cameron County 445th state District Court on Jan. 27. The suit requests a preliminary injunction followed by a permanent injunction against construction and operation of LNG plants at the port, alleging that such activity “shall have a detrimental and negative impact upon the environment, including air, soil and water quality” for residents of Port Isabel and wildlife in and around Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.

As an example, the plaintiffs cite Texas LNG, the smallest of the three proposed LNG projects, whose facility on 625 acres on the north bank of the Brownsville Ship Channel would be in “close proximity” to Port Isabel and LANWR, according to the suit. The plaintiffs cite testimony from board-certified environmental engineer David Allen Weeks to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality regarding Texas LNG’s application to build and operate an LNG plant at the port.

According to the suit, Weeks testified that airborne contaminants from the plant would be deposited in LANWR and other areas within Port Isabel’s corporate and extraterritorial boundaries. These contaminants can be absorbed into the food chain and cause “toxic responses” in birds and other mammals and have “direct adverse effects on the ecosystem itself,” he testified, according to the plaintiffs. Among the contaminants are those known to or suspected of causing cancer, Weeks said, according to the suit.

The two other proposed LNG projects that have lease agreements with BND are Annova LNG and Rio Grande LNG. All three have received permission from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to move forward with their projects but are awaiting final investment decisions.

The suit alleges that three LNG plants operating at the same time would have a “large impact” on Port Isabel, LANWR and environs.

The plaintiffs argue that BND’s lease agreements with the three LNG companies subverts public health and “constitutes an obstruction of public rights.” The permanent injunction sought by the plaintiffs seeks to bar all three LNG companies from building and operating facilities at the port.

BND counsel Daniel Rentfro Jr. declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying BND had not yet been formally served. Once that happens, BND will file an answer to the suit, he said.