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A tanker carrying shale gas from Houston, Texas arrives in North Queensferry, Scotland on March 19, 2020. (Photo: Ken Jack/Getty Images)

Locals Warn Biden's EU Export Plan Would Make Gulf Coast 'Sacrifice Zone' for Fracked Gas

"President Biden cannot call himself a climate president while ignoring the needs and reality of impacted communities."

Brett Wilkins

Frontline community activists on Friday joined climate and environmental campaigners in denouncing the Biden administration's plan to ramp up U.S. gas shipments to the European Union in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Elida Castillo, program director at Chispa Texas, said in a statement that "our thoughts are with those in Ukraine and Europe who are facing humanitarian and energy crises, but we cannot disregard the crises our communities are facing every day."

"Increasing gas exports to the E.U. will exacerbate environmental racism and environmental injustices in the Gulf."

U.S. President Joe Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Friday announced a joint task force whose goal is "to reduce Europe's dependence on Russian fossil fuels and strengthen European energy security."

Under the task force plan, the U.S. aims to export 50 billion cubic meters of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe annually through at least 2030. The move comes amid sanctions-driven cutbacks in fossil fuel shipments from Russia, which before the Ukrainian invasion supplied roughly 40% of Europe's gas and 27% of its oil imports.

"The Biden administration cannot promise to reduce greenhouse gases while increasing the fracking and production of LNG," said Castillo. "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."

"Plus, the industry has left thousands of orphaned wells throughout the state that leak tons of methane into the atmosphere, and the people once again bear the costs," she added. "President Biden has a commitment to protect the environment, act on environmental justice, and be energy independent. This should mean finding alternatives to fossil fuels and stopping the greenwashing efforts such as carbon capture storage and hydrogen."

Addressing Biden, Roishetta Ozane, founder of Vessel Project and an organizer at Healthy Gulf, said that "if you are true in your word in wanting to defend environmental justice communities, then you must prioritize actions that will actually protect us. That includes stopping the fracked gas LNG build-out along the Gulf Coast."

Ozane noted that "more than 20 export facilities have been proposed along the Gulf Coast, specifically in Texas and Louisiana. Here in Southwest Louisiana, we are already infiltrated with industry, both with petrochemical facilities and LNG."

"We've had enough," she added. "We will no longer sit idly by and become a sacrifice zone to Big Oil and Big Gas. We are tired."

Port Arthur Community Action Network founder and CEO John Beard said that "increasing gas exports to the E.U. will exacerbate environmental racism and environmental injustices in the Gulf."

"Routinely, communities of color across the Gulf bear the brunt of air and water pollution, get displaced due to industry operations, and receive inadequate hurricane relief while fossil fuel corporations are getting billion-dollar tax breaks to pollute our neighborhoods," he continued. "This has been true for decades, but the Biden administration and the E.U. are preparing to give the fossil fuel industry a green light to transform the Gulf Coast into a 'sacrifice zone' for fracked gas."

"President Biden cannot call himself a climate president while ignoring the needs and reality of impacted communities," Beard added.

Emma Guevara, Sierra Club's Rio Grande Valley organizer for the Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign, said that area residents "and the Indigenous communities of South Texas have been resisting the fracked gas build-out for over half a decade, and through community pressure and international organizing with allies in Europe, we have successfully stopped one of the proposed export terminals, Annova LNG, from ever getting built here."

"The Biden administration and the E.U.'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," she added. "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."

The frontline activists urged Biden to visit their communities to see firsthand the impacts of his administration's policies and actions on their lives.

"Come here to Lake Charles," implored Ozane. "Come back to Southwest Louisiana and tell us if you want to save us or continue to make us a sacrifice."

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