Report: Proposed LNG plants could affect ocelot preservation
HOUSTON (AP) - A plan to build three liquefied natural gas export terminals in South Texas could devastate long-term, costly efforts to boost the population of endangered ocelots in the state, according to wildlife advocates.
The wild cats have not been seen in the Port of Brownsville since the 1990s, and Defenders of Wildlife estimates fewer than 60 ocelots remain in Texas, the Houston Chronicle reported. Already divided into two isolated populations in Willacy and Cameron counties, the group cautions that combined traffic, light and noise associated with the proposed LNG plants would split the ocelot habitat beyond repair.
"The impacts of these plants would be so devastating to the future recovery of the ocelot that they should not be built there at all," said Robert Peters, a Defenders of Wildlife biologist, said in a report released Tuesday. "It's just a terrible place to put an industrial development like this. It's probably the worst place available in terms of cutting the connectivity to Mexico."
Over decades, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife service has paid over $90 million to purchase nearly 158,000 acres (around 64,000 hectares) of land in the Rio Grande Valley to develop a cross-border wildlife corridor intended to promote the migration of ocelots and other animals from Mexico to Texas. The agency's 2016 ocelot recovery plan estimates it could take up to 100 years and an additional $343 million in projects for the ocelot to be removed from the endangered species list.
An excess of natural gas from U.S. shale basins is driving a surge in projects to export LNG to clients in Europe, Asia and Latin America where prices are higher. NextDecade and Texas LNG, both based in Houston, and Exelon of Chicago, are pursuing permission from federal regulators to build LNG terminals along the western end of the Brownsville Ship Channel. If allowed, the three plants would bring a projected $40 billion of private investment, thousands of construction jobs and hundreds of permanent jobs to the poor border region.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has given final environmental approval for Texas' LNG terminal but has not yet issued permits for the energy projects. It is expected to make a final permit decision between late June and mid-July.
Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com
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