By DINA ARÉVALO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
During a special meeting Friday, the Laguna Madre Water District (LMWD) passed a resolution opposing the development and annexation request of several Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) companies which hope to build export terminals along the Port of Brownsville.
The District is the first public entity to speak out against the proposed facilities.
In the resolution, which is available for viewing below, the District states that it “finds that its opposition is necessary and deemed to be in the public interest.” It concludes by stating, “The Board of Directors of the Laguna Madre Water District oppose the LNG Facilities Development and Annexation Request.”
Speaking after the meeting’s adjournment, District Chairman Jeff Keplinger said, “Personally, as one director, I can tell you that my constituents — the people I talk to — every single one of them is against it, except may one — one out of maybe 100 people I talk to.”
“I mean, I’m an elected official, I try to do what’s right for the community, and what the community believes in,” he added.
Keplinger said that, as of yet, none of the LNG facilities have submitted an application for annexation. “I don’t know if it’s been official if they’ve actually put a request in writing for annexation into the District, but they did pick up an annexation packet, and they have been looking at that to see if they can be annexed into the water district,” he said. “We’re only a mile, a mile and a half away, as opposed to Brownsville PUB’s 20 miles away,” he said. The PUB is the City of Brownsville’s Public Utilities Board which provides, among other services, electricity and water.
Speaking for the PUB Friday, Senior Communications and Public Relations Coordinator Ryan Greenfeld said the PUB would be unable to provide such services to the companies. “The locations are actually outside of our service territory. Electrical-wise we wouldn’t be able to supply them,” he said. The same holds true for supplying water, he said. “The water is also, for that location, it would not be handled by us. The water would be handled by the Port of Brownsville,” he said.
When reached for comment, officials at the Port of Brownsville said they were unaware of the LMWD’s newly passed resolution, but added that supplying water services is one of the Port’s functions. “We are a wholesale water customer of PUB and we are a retail outlet for water that’s available to all of our tenants,” said Patty Gonzales, director of marketing and public relations for the Port of Brownsville.
Gonzales added that none of the LNG companies are currently tenants of the Port. “They are in the development phase only and they do not have a lease with the Port of Brownsville,” she said.
Currently, three companies: Texas LNG, Rio Grande LNG and Annova LNG, are pursuing options to lease at the Port and are in the middle of a two-years-long application process with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
“We have no formal requests for water services. I should remind you that the LNGs are looking at all their options,” Gonzales said.
Looking at multiple options may have been what prompted at least one LNG company to seek an annexation application from the LMWD. The majority of the board, however, voiced their opposition during the special meeting.
“The pros and cons of this thing, if you sit down and really look at them, the cons outweigh the pros dramatically,” said board vice chairman Whitey Thomas after the meeting.
“I’m all for economic growth in the area, but at what expense? I don’t want there to be any problems with … the environment, the people that live in this area,” said secretary Martin Cantu, Jr.
Chairman Keplinger said the board decided to discuss the resolution after receiving multiple comments from the community, but also from personal belief, describing how many of the board’s members are longstanding residents of the Laguna Madre area.
When asked why the District, as a public entity, would oppose the annexation of LNG companies into the District, Director Rick Wells said, “We were elected by the people to do what the people want — 95 percent of the population here does not want this thing built. Period. That’s the way I feel about it.”
The board will also make its opinion known to FERC. During the meeting, they directed LMWD General Manager Carlos Galvan to attend an upcoming FERC scoping meeting to enter the language of the resolution into the public comments on behalf of the District. That meeting will occur on Tuesday, Aug. 11 at the Port Isabel Event and Cultural Center (PIECC) from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. FERC will be recording public comments about all three of the LNG companies and their proposed projects.
“From a District standpoint, Carlos (Galvan) is going to do it,” Wells said of reading the resolution at the scoping meeting. “I plan to be in the protest line out front,” he said.
“I am going to do what the board requested and go present that resolution,” Galvan said.
The board directors present voted unanimously in favor of the resolution, however, one member who was not present — Scott D. Friedman— requested that a message be read to the board. Referring to a text message, Keplinger read Friedman’s message, which stated: “I feel that it is a personal choice and not one the board can make on behalf of the water district as an elected official.”
To view the board’s resolution, click the link below. A PDF file will open.
This post has been updated.
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