Looming LNG Pipeline Construction Raising Concerns

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PORT ISABEL – Tour boat companies are speaking up in the wake of three liquefied natural gas pipelines in the works.

"This is home to 250 to 300 dolphins," said Captain Heather Lacy. "We have 17 babies in the bay right now."

Capt. Lacy and Captain Paul Sty run Fins to Feathers, a tour boat company out of Port Isabel. They rely on Texas's Gulf Coast tourism to survive.

"We need more tourists. The more coastline that you take away and the more stuff that you take away from them, we're going to lose the tourists. This is a tourist city," said Capt. Lacy.

Besides the tourism and habitats for wildlife, business along the coastline may soon diversify with the construction of three LNG pipelines. The land is already earmarked for the three facilities.

"Texas has a lot of coastline that's donated to oil and gas," says Capt. Lacy. "We need more coastline that's dedicated to the animals and that's a safe place for them to live. They're running out of places."

Capt. Lacy says they're already seeing an uptick in boating traffic with the construction of a natural gas pipeline transporting to Mexico.

"It's destroying the grassland," said Capt. Lacy. "Ultimately it's going to impact the fish, and then, ultimately, that's going to impact the dolphins."

Texas LNG, Rio Grande LNG, and Annova LNG are all in the process of getting approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC. If approved, they'll be built along the Brownsville shipping channel.

Environmental impact statements are under development. Recently Cameron County approved a Chapter 312 tax abatement with Rio Grande LNG once they're established.

Only Texas LNG responded to CHANNEL 5 NEWS requests for information.

Project Director Dave Glessner told us there will be dredging to make room for tankers running 39 feet deep.

In a statement, Glessner says:

Texas LNG will add 1 every 5-6 days when the facility if fully operational.  The LNG carriers will take about 1 hour to transit thru the jetties to Texas LNG.  Boats outside the channel, for example in Laguna Madre or South Bay, can remain in their location until the LNG carrier passes by.

He also says some construction equipment will travel along the water.

That work will allow for an average of 600 construction jobs. Jobs, Glessner says, Texas LNG intends to hire locally.

While these local boaters welcome the new jobs, they want to make sure there are no unintended consequences under the water's glassy surface.

"That's how we survive," says Capt. Lacy. "Introducing you to the dolphins, the birds, that's magic. That's what we try to emphasize, that's the magic of our home. If you take the magic away then there will be nothing for them."

Texas LNG's representative says multiple agencies will review the project for environmental impact, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, and National Marine Fisheries.

Glessner says the Texas LNG pipeline itself will run, buried along Highway 48.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS asked Glessner if the market for LNG is good enough to warrant three facilities in the same port.

Glessner told us there is an oversupply of LNG at this time. He says in the long term a shortage is expected by the year 2021.

If you would like to read the documents submitted by all three companies, you will find them on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's website.


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