Although the oil and gas industry in 2015 won a major victory in the Legislature with a law that prohibits local governments from regulating energy exploration, the head of the Texas Oil and Gas Association said anti-industry activists are continuing to put up roadblocks at the local level—especially now that Congress and the White House are controlled by pro-production Republicans. “What we are seeing is the anti-oil-and-gas forces going state to state and local governments to thwart oil and gas activities,” said association president Todd Staples. “They’ve lost the [Obama] Administration, so what we are seeing is they are making it tough at every level.”
Staples in particular pointed to opposition that has grown in South Texas to building Liquefied Natural Gas export terminals at the Port of Brownsville. Gas from hydraulic fracturing wells in the Eagle Ford shale would be transported across the Lower Rio Grande Valley in pipelines to a facility that would condense the volume of the gas for export overseas.
Local opponents claim the project would harm the environment and create pollution. The project has the support of a local drainage district and chamber of commerce, but the Port Isabel ISD board in December voted down a tax abatement to make the project attractive to investors.
Staples noted that seven protesters were arrested over the weekend in Brewster County while trying to block the Trans-Pecos Pipeline. He also said the protesters are trying to do nothing more than halt the use of fossil fuels. “Even major forecasters say fossil fuels are going to be the dominant fuel source for the foreseeable future,” Staples said.
The protesters claim they are trying to protect the nature of Big Bend. According to a report by Earth First!: “The best hope for us is to let the public know just how the deck is stacked against us and that the gas industry is allowed to do whatever they want,” Roger Siglin told the Big Bend Sentinel and Presidio International as the chains were still wrapped around his torso. “The public has no say in where the pipelines go as they do public entities like power lines.”
Staples said the protests just help drive up the cost of fossil fuels for families in Texas and around the world.