TCEQ holds Rio Grande LNG air permit meeting

Laguna Vista Town Councilwoman Nadine Smith speaks at a TCEQ public hearing regarding an air quality permit for Rio Grande LNG last Thursday evening in Brownsville. Smith was one of several Laguna Madre leaders who questioned the location of the meeting. (Dina Arévalo | Staff photographer)

Port Isabel-South Padre Press

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) hosted a public hearing regarding an air quality permit application from Rio Grande LNG, which is one of three liquefied natural gas (LNG) companies seeking to build LNG export terminals at the Port of Brownsville.

Over 150 people attended the meeting, which was held last Thursday, March 8 at the Brownsville Events Center, a fact which displeased several Laguna Madre area leaders. Too, many of the residents who spoke during the informal and formal comment periods of the meeting voiced their opposition to the air quality permit and the LNG facilities in general.

The meeting was divided into three distinct sections — an introduction period, an informal question and comment period, and a formal comment period, explained Michael Cheek, who moderated the discussions throughout the evening.

TCEQ officials and a representative from Rio Grande LNG sat at two tables placed at the front of the room. Residents and other attendees of the meeting sat in an array of chairs divided by a single aisle up the middle. At the front of the aisle stood a microphone where residents could deliver their comments.

TCEQ would not record or formally respond to questions or comments made during the informal part of the meeting. Comments and questions made during the formal part of the hearing would be recorded and receive written response, Cheek said. TCEQ will continue to accept comments and questions until March 26, officials said.

Cheek began the hearing by announcing that the regulatory agency had determined Rio Grande LNG’s application meets requirements thus far. “We have preliminarily determined that it meets all the air requirements to be granted permitting to begin construction,” Cheek said.

Cheek then launched into a brief explanation of the various state and federal guidelines TCEQ uses to evaluate an air quality permit.

Komi Hassan, Rio Grande LNG’s director of regulator affairs then gave a brief overview of the company and its air permit application before Cheek opened the floor to the public. Cheek said he would entertain informal comments at two minutes per person until approximately 8:15, giving the public an hour to say their piece.

But as the first of dozens of concerned residents stood before the microphone, some became overcome with emotion, ultimately yelling and expressing their anger at the proposed LNG facilities.

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