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Biden and Buttigieg

U.S. President Joe Biden, flanked by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, delivers a speech on April 4, 2022 on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Nathan Posner/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

'A Death Sentence': Biden Blasted for Approving Oil Export Project

"It is peak hypocrisy for President Biden and Secretary Pete Buttigieg to shorten the fuse on the world's largest carbon bomb by greenlighting additional oil export terminals right after lecturing the world about increasing climate ambitions at COP27," said one critic.

Jessica Corbett

The Biden administration provoked national outrage this week by approving an oil export project off the coast of Texas—despite pledging to battle the climate emergency, including at COP27, the United Nations summit that just wrapped up in Egypt.

"Enterprise has a terrible spill record, and they choose to run these pipelines right up our ass."

The new license for the Sea Port Oil Terminal (SPOT) came from the Maritime Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation, on Monday after a three-year review.

"Our Gulf Coast communities are already sick because of the fossil fuel industry. We've made it clear with letters, protests, and studies that we can't take another oil or gas operation pumping toxic chemicals and dangerous greenhouse gas emissions into neighborhoods and the climate," Sierra Club Gulf Coast campaign representative Rebekah Hinojosa said in a statement Tuesday.

"What will it take for the Biden administration and regulators to hear Gulf Coast voices over industry lobbyists?" Hinojosa asked. "They've sold out communities again by approving the application for SPOT."

As the Houston Chronicle reported earlier this year, Enterprise plans to build the terminal "about 30 miles south of Freeport. A pipeline would transport crude from the company's pipeline network in Houston to Surfside, where it would cut under the beach before heading 30 miles offshore to the port."

The newspaper noted Tuesday that though "the regulatory approval doesn't necessarily mean the project will be built," Enterprise welcomed the development, saying that "it is gratifying to see the Maritime Administration recognize the significant environmental and maritime safety advantages of SPOT compared to current industry practice."

Meanwhile, Stop SPOT & GulfLink campaigner Donna Robinson said Tuesday that "Enterprise has a terrible spill record, and they choose to run these pipelines right up our ass."

"We are against this oil project because it will do nothing but contribute pollution to our already dangerously dirty air and increase the chances of yet another oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico," the Surfside Beach resident added.

Freeport resident Gwen Jones noted that the area "has been a dumping ground for these oil and gas plants for decades" and called SPOT "a death sentence for my community."

"Why does this keep happening? Because we are poor minorities," Jones charged. "It is clear our voices are not being listened to by decision-makers. This must change."

Activists with national organizations also slammed the administration for issuing the license.

"When we say oil and gas companies are sacrificing communities to make a buck this is exactly what we are talking about. SPOT would emit over 300 million tons of carbon dioxide every year polluting the air and water of Brazoria and Harris counties in Texas while creating serious health threats for everyone living there," said Destiny Watford of Greenpeace USA. "We have less than a decade to cut emissions by half. Approving new oil and gas projects is not a bridge, it is an on-ramp to planetary collapse."

Watford called out both the White House and the head of the Transportation Department, arguing that "it is peak hypocrisy for President Biden and Secretary Pete Buttigieg to shorten the fuse on the world's largest carbon bomb by greenlighting additional oil export terminals right after lecturing the world about increasing climate ambitions at COP27."

Earthworks senior policy advocate Kelsey Crane agreed that "President Biden cannot lead on combating climate change, protecting public health, or advocating for environmental justice while simultaneously allowing fossil fuel companies to lock in decades of fossil fuel extraction."

"This administration has the power to stop crude oil export projects and limit fossil fuels, an essential missing piece of U.S. climate policy," Crane continued. "Communities that are being harmed by fossil fuels have been calling on President Biden to stop permitting oil and gas projects since his first day in office. The people most impacted by the SPOT project are being ignored, and their families, children, and neighbors will continue to have their environment degraded and suffer from living alongside more toxic pollution just so the fossil fuel industry can continue posting record profits."

Lauren Parker, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity's Climate Law Institute, stressed that projects like SPOT impact not only local communities but also the entire planet.

"Exporting oil and gas unleashes climate calamity on the U.S. and the world," Parker warned. "Biden needs to respect the science, the law, and his own climate goals by keeping these dangerous fossil fuel projects off our coasts."

The SPOT approval comes as campaigners worldwide lament that the final COP27 agreement did not include language demanding a rapid phaseout of all planet-wrecking fossil fuels.

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