Port Arthur, Texas — On Friday, May 20, two Judges at the State Office of Administrative Hearings issued their decision in a pending challenge to Sempra Energy’s Port Arthur liquefied natural gas export terminal, requiring stricter pollution controls and lower pollution limits for the plant.
The decision by Administrative Law Judges Meitra Farhadi and Heather Hunziker was a major victory for local group Port Arthur Community Action Network, represented by attorneys from Lone Star Legal Aid and Environmental Integrity Project. The environmental justice group based in Port Arthur has been challenging Sempra Energy’s application to build the massive Port Arthur LNG export terminal since September of 2020.
John Beard, Chairman of the Port Arthur Community Action Network, said: “While the Judges’ ruling is welcome news, the struggle for justice, equity and freedom for overburdened communities like Port Arthur continues. Airborne toxins bring death with each breath, yet companies like Sempra refuse to respect the most basic of rights: clean, fresh air. Companies that value money over people have no business moving in here. The fight ain’t over, and we will continue to pursue justice.”
After considering all the evidence presented at a three-day hearing in late February, the Judges sided with Port Arthur Community Action Network in finding that additional pollution controls were required for the refrigeration turbines, the single largest source of air pollution at the plant. The decision would reduce nitrogen oxides pollution from the plant by 506 tons per year and carbon monoxide pollution by 763 tons per year. Nitrogen oxides can cause coughing and difficulty breathing, and can worsen asthma symptoms. Nitrogen oxides also react with other pollutants in the air to form smog, also known as ozone. Carbon monoxide can cause fatigue, chest pain, dizziness, and nausea.
The Judges’ ruling, called a Proposal for Decision, will now go to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, where the three Commissioners will vote on whether to adopt the decision to revise the permit to incorporate these lower emissions. The Commissioners can, and sometimes do, modify a proposal for decision if they find good cause to do so.
Amy Dinn, Managing Attorney, Lone Star Legal Aid, said: “If the Commissioners follow through, this will reduce pollution from Port Arthur LNG’s refrigeration turbines by 45%, and reduce pollution from the entire plant by 25%. These emission reductions will at least partially relieve the pollution burden proposed by this new build out of gas export facilities on the coast for those individuals living and working in this overburdened environmental justice community.”
The Judges’ decision also reaffirms an earlier decision finding that Port Arthur Community Action Network and its members will be affected by the pollution from gas export terminal and have standing to participate in this hearing. Under Texas law, individuals and groups can challenge pollution permits that will affect them, though the hearings are limited in scope and there is no meaningful opportunity to challenge greenhouse gas or climate change impacts.
Colin Cox, Attorney with Environmental Integrity Project, said: “Thanks to this decision, Sempra will now have to build the plant to modern standards. But to protect the people of Port Arthur and the planet, this permit should be denied and the Port Arthur LNG terminal should not be built.
For a copy of the Judges’ decision, click here.
Media contact: Colin Cox, Environmental Integrity Project, 832-316-0580, firstname.lastname@example.org; Clarissa Ayala, Lone Star Legal Aid, 832-627-8404, email@example.com.
The Port Arthur Community Action Network is a community-based, environmental justice non-profit organization working to protect the people of Port Arthur, Texas. https://www.pa-can.com.
Lone Star Legal Aid’s mission is to protect and advance the civil legal rights of the millions of Texans living in poverty in its 76 county service area by providing free advocacy, legal representation, and community education that ensures equal access to justice. http://www.lonestarlegal.org
The Environmental Integrity Project is a 20-year-old, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to enforcing environmental laws and strengthening policy to protect public health and the environment. https://www.environmentalintegrity.org