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U.S. EPA Administrator Michael Regan speaks at the White House on May 12, 2021 in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan speaks at the White House on May 12, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images)

Anger as Biden EPA Backs 'Dangerous and Unnecessary' Oil Export Project on Texas Coast

"You cannot address current and historic environmental injustice if you are advancing new fossil fuel projects," said one campaigner.

Brett Wilkins

Environmental and climate campaigners on Wednesday expressed outrage after the Biden administration backed the approval of a massive new fossil fuel project on the Texas coast that one opponent calls "dangerous and unnecessary." 

"Y'all have a terrible spill record. You choose to run these pipes right up our ass. We are against this project."

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommended that the Maritime Administration approve the Sea Port Oil Terminal (SPOT), a crude oil infrastructure project proposed by Enterprise Products Operating LLC, SPOT Terminal Services LLC, and Enbridge Inc.

As currently planned, SPOT would consist of several pipelines—the longest of them 50 miles long—storage tanks, and a deepwater oil export platform 30 miles off the coast of Brazoria County.

"This is a signal President [Joe] Biden is moving us in the wrong direction on addressing environmental injustice and the climate crisis," Kelsey Crane, senior policy advocate at the green group Earthworks, said in a statement.

"You cannot address current and historic environmental injustice if you are advancing new fossil fuel projects that will continue to harm the communities who are forced to live alongside this pollution and have been suffering and dying under industry exploitation," Crane added.

Earthworks said SPOT would emit 300 million tons of greenhouse gases annually, "further harming the health of predominantly low-income communities and communities of color."

The group added that the project would "increase air pollutants that form ozone and smog in communities that have failed to meet EPA air quality standards for more than a decade and [are] home to some of the highest cancer clusters in the nation."

The advocacy group Food & Water Watch calls SPOT "dangerous and unnecessary," arguing that "we can't sacrifice the health of Texas' Gulf Coast environment and communities for a massive crude oil export terminal that will further fuel the climate crisis."

According to U.S. Coast Guard and Maritime Administration, the pipelines will pass through the Brazos River, 149 wetlands, and the town of Surfside Beach. EPA recommended approval for SPOT's license despite acknowledging that "more emphasis is needed to ensure that environmental justice and climate change considerations are included in the project for the protection of overburdened communities."

Residents of communities that would be affected by SPOT have pushed back against the project. In March 2021, the Surfside Beach Village Council voted unanimously to oppose the proposal as planned, and protests have been held against the proposal.

At an August virtual public hearing on the proposed project, Surfside Beach resident Donna Robinson asked, "What kind of plan is set in place for fishing and tourism losses in case it spills oil?"

"Y'all have a terrible spill record," she added. "You choose to run these pipes right up our ass. We are against this project."

Noting during the same hearing that there are more than 50 public water wells within a kilometer of the proposed pipeline route, Healthy Gulf staff scientist Naomi Yoder said that the U.S. Maritime Administration "has received 14,000 comments against this project" and that "an oil spill is just a matter of time" because "Enterprise has a horrible track record of spills."

Melanie Oldham, Freeport resident and founder of Citizens for Clean Air and Water in Brazoria, said that "in one breath the EPA says they approve of the project, and in the next breath they talk about the need to take a closer look at environmental justice communities, which is Brazoria County."

Oldham added that "the only way to ensure environmental justice and protection of these communities that have been overburdened by industry is to deny the license for SPOT and all new fossil fuel projects."

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