By DINA ARÉVALO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
At the request of State Rep. René Oliveira (D-Brownsville), the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) held a public hearing in regards to an air quality permit application submitted by Texas LNG.
Texas LNG is one of three companies which are currently seeking federal approval to construct liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals along the Port of Brownsville Ship Channel. The approval process includes attaining permits from several regulatory agencies, including the TCEQ.
An hour prior to the meeting, a crowd of demonstrators gathered across the street from the museum to protest the construction of the facilities, which will be located between two and five miles from the cities of Port Isabel, Laguna Vista and South Padre Island.
Members of the Sierra Club, an environmental organization with chapters across the country, as well as Save RGV from LNG, a grassroots organization of local residents opposed to the facilities, addressed the assembled protestors. One person in particular stood out: Austin resident Neil Carmen, a member of the Sierra Club and a former TCEQ employee. Speaking just after the demonstration, Carmen described why he opposed the LNG facilities. “What I began to experience were problems with the permits,” he said of his time working for TCEQ..
“I got to see the inside of the agency and a lot of the problems that exist,” Carmen said. Namely, those problems, in his opinion, included the agency being too permissive in granting air quality permits in an attempt to not drive prospective businesses from the state.
“I came to the conclusion that every air permit the agency issues is flawed; it’s got problems with it and I had to deal with it,” he said. During his 12 year tenure with the agency — from 1980 to 1992 — Carmen said he fielded over 1,000 complaints from Texas residents and participated in several lawsuits on behalf of the agency against companies that were noncompliant with their permits.
As the 7 o’clock hour approached, approximately 100 people filled the gallery at the Historic Museum of Brownsville Tuesday for what would turn into a 3-hour long question and answer session, as well as a formal public comment session with the State’s environmental regulatory agency.
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