TCEQ denies cities’ request for contested case hearings

Port Isabel-South Padre Press

This Tuesday, the communities of the Laguna Madre were delivered a substantial blow in their years’ long effort to keep several petrochemical companies from constructing liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals at the Port of Brownsville.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) held a public hearing in Austin this week to decide whether the City of Port Isabel, the Town of Laguna Vista, and a handful of private citizen groups would be given standing as “affected individuals” in their requests for contested case hearings regarding an air quality permit application submitted by one of the three companies — Rio Grande LNG.

And it was during Tuesday’s meeting that the TCEQ decided the municipalities and groups do not have such standing, paving the way for Rio Grande LNG’s permit to receive final approval.

The TCEQ held a public hearing regarding the air quality permit in March of this year. The meeting, held in Brownsville, was attended by over 150 people, many of whom have indicated their opposition to the LNG projects. Officials from the City of Port Isabel and the Town of Laguna Vista both spoke, reiterating their municipalities’ formal opposition to the projects.

The governing bodies of both cities passed resolutions opposing LNG during equally heavily attended meetings in 2015. And since then, representatives from both communities have attended subsequent public meetings regarding the issue, including Port Isabel City Manager Jared Hockema.

On behalf of the City of Port Isabel, Hockema penned a letter requesting TCEQ hold a contested case hearing in regards to the air permit, citing environmental concerns, as well as economic ones.

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