Don’t turn the Gulf into a sacrifice zone, environmental groups tell Biden

by | Mar 25, 2022 | Environment, News

Gulf Coast environmental groups are speaking out against a new plan by the Biden administration to expand U.S. gas supply to Europe in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

The White House plan is an attempt to curb Europe’s reliance on Russian fossil fuels, but environmental groups say it will lead to more fracking, pollution, and toxic flooding hazards for Gulf Coast communities. 

John Beard, founder and CEO of the environmental justice advocacy group Port Arthur Community Action Network said increasing gas exports will hurt communities of color in the Gulf who bear the brunt of the industry’s air and water pollution, as well as displacement by growing oil & gas operations.

“This has been true for decades, but the Biden Administration and the EU are preparing to give the fossil fuel industry a greenlight to transform the Gulf Coast into a ‘sacrifice zone’ for fracked gas,” Beard said in a prepared statement. “President Biden cannot call himself a climate president while ignoring the needs and reality of impacted communities.”

The increase in fracking in Texas would also lead to more methane pollution, a greenhouse gas that has 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide.

Emma Guevara, an organizer for Sierra Club’s Rio Grande Valley said South Texas residents and Indigenous communities have resisted the buildup of fracking for over half a decade. 

“The Biden administration and the EU’s Task Force plans to export more gas from the Gulf is not only dangerous, it is deaf to the clear vocal opposition from Rio Grande Valley residents who want to protect their health and environment,” Guevara said. “Even in hearing this news, we are unwavering in our message: The Rio Grande Valley is not a sacrifice zone to fossil fuels and we will continue to defend the Gulf from polluting and extractive industry.”

Elida Castillo, program director for Chispa Texas, a Tejano climate justice group, said their thoughts are with those in Ukraine and Europe but the Biden Administration cannot disregard the crises being faced in Texas. Castillo said the White House cannot promise to reduce greenhouse gasses while increasing fracking and the production of liquified natural gas. 

“Fracking methane gas poisons our scarce drinking water, the land, and air especially in communities that already have trouble accessing clean, potable water and live in sacrifice zones,” Castillo said. “Plus, the industry has left 1000s of orphaned wells throughout the state that leak tons of methane into the atmosphere and the people once again bear the costs.”

Castillo said President Biden should instead find alternatives to fossil fuels and stop the “greenwashing” of carbon capture storage and hydrogen. 

“Gulf communities are already seeing the impacts of global sea level rise, land loss, and stronger hurricanes, all because of fossil fuel dependence,” said Naomi Yoder, a staff scientist with the Houston-based environmental group Healthy Gulf. “Furthermore, expansion of fossil gas export facilities wouldn’t help any short term supply issues. Big Gas corporations want to build dangerous, unnecessary, polluting gas export facilities in the heart of hurricane alley on some of the lowest lying land in the US. Expansion of US gas exports would be a disaster waiting to happen.”

Map: Uwe Dedering/Wikimedia Commons

fernando@texassignal.com | + posts

Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at fernando@texassignal.com

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