By DINA ARÉVALO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
Representatives from business interests all over the Rio Grande Valley gathered at the Port of Brownsville Tuesday morning for a press conference hosted by Annova LNG, which is part of a company called Exelon Generation.
Annova LNG is one of three Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) companies seeking to build LNG export terminals along the Brownsville Ship Channel on Port of Brownsville land zoned for industrial use. Currently, all three companies are in a pre-filing process to seek the recommendation of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
Members of the South Padre Island, Brownsville and Los Fresnos Chambers of Commerce, Rio Grande Valley Partnership Chamber of Commerce and South Texas Economic & Energy Roundtable (STEER), among others, all stood to lend their support — and that of their respective agencies — to the company which plans to build a liquefaction facility on more than 600 acres of land adjacent to the Bahia Grande.
“We are in the midst of an energy transformation,” said Omar Garcia, president of STEER. “Annova LNG will help secure the Rio Grande Valley’s position in the global energy market,” he said.
Speaking for United Brownsville, Executive Director Mike Gonzalez said, “The LNG industry the Rio Grande Valley’s place as an energy hub for the world. And our community is poised to attract not just great paying LNG jobs, but also new corporate citizens.”
He went on to say, “I’ve been pleased to learn about Exelon’s commitment to improving the quality of life of the cities in which they locate.”
Annova LNG’s track record was a point of interest to Roxanne Guenzel, of the South Padre Island Chamber of Commerce. “Exelon has proven to us that they have a good track record with safety and environmental stewardship,” she said. “I think that once people become informed, that they’ll learn that there’s a balance between industry and the environment and that they can coexist,” she said, addressing environmental concerns which have been raised by residents of the Laguna Madre area.
But that track record has come under scrutiny recently. According to several reports from the Chicago Tribune, in 2006, Exelon — Annova LNG’s parent company — was cited by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for almost two dozen tritium spills from a nuclear facility in Illinois.
The City of South Padre Island recently gained an economic boon with the passage of House Bill 1717 in the state legislature this spring. The bill will allow the City to use more revenue gathered via the Hotel Occupancy Tax for new infrastructure and events aimed at ecotourism and space tourism. When asked if she thought supporting increased industrialization in the Laguna Madre region would be at a cross purpose to fostering Island ecotourism, a $3 million industry, Guenzel said no. “I think that the Port of Brownsville, their mission, their work, is to develop the Port,” she said.
Annova LNG president David Chung was optimistic during the press conference, however. “The FERC process is a very rigorous process that goes through all of the environmental impact,” Chung said. “We are working with all of the associated groups, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife (and the) EPA in terms of ensuring our project is meeting or exceeding some of the standards,” he said. He went on to say that Exelon Generation itself has strict standards it will abide by.
“We’re in the midst of a revolution in the United States. We’re in a time where we have an excess of natural gas,” Chung said, saying the country has an unique opportunity to export it to the rest of the world.
Annova’s three stages represent an investment of $2.9 billion, Chung added. “Our facility is 6 MTPA, which is millions of tons per annum,” he said. “The gas industry likes to talk in daily terms, so that’s about 900,000 MTPAs per day,” he said.
While in the pre-filing process, Annova LNG is also seeking a tax abatement agreement with Cameron County. “If the abatements are granted it’ll be something less than 100 percent for a very specific period of years.” said Bill Harris, communications senior manager for Exelon Generation. “In the lifetime of this project, this project will spend lots and lots of money in property taxes,” he said.
Chung added that the lifetime of the project, based on sales contracts, is 20 years. Chung added he expected extensions to be negotiated. If, however, extensions were not granted, Annova LNG “would have a fund for dismantling and putting it back to what it was,” he said.
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