The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Lauren Parker, Center for Biological Diversity,
Elida Castillo, Chispa Texas,

Legal Petition Urges Biden Administration to Stop New Deepwater Ports for Oil, Gas Exports


The Center for Biological Diversity and 289 organizations sent a legal petition today to the Maritime Administration, or MARAD, an agency in the U.S. Department of Transportation, demanding that the Biden administration halt approvals of new deepwater port infrastructure for oil and gas exports.

Activists and community leaders will deliver the petition and host a rally at the MARAD office in Houston today, where more than 180 healthcare professionals will also deliver a letter demanding an end to deepwater port approvals to protect public health.

At the COP27 climate summit in Egypt today, grassroots leaders from the U.S. Gulf Coast, Europe and Africa staged a demonstration to highlight that importing and exporting fossil fuels is a global disaster for communities and the climate.

"Exporting oil and gas unleashes climate calamity on the U.S. and the world," said Lauren Parker, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity's Climate Law Institute. "Biden needs to respect the science, the law and his own climate goals by keeping these dangerous fossil fuel projects off our coasts."

The petition comes as MARAD considers whether to approve the Sea Port Oil Terminal (SPOT), which would be the largest offshore export terminal in the United States. It calls on the agency to halt approvals of such projects as contrary to its mandatory "national interest" standard.

According to MARAD's mandate under the Deepwater Port Act, any new project approvals must conform with national environmental laws and be in the "national interest and consistent with national security and other national policy goals and objectives, including energy sufficiency and environmental quality."

Issuing permits for new deepwater ports to import or export oil and liquified gas fails to meet that agency standard. In addition to worsening the fossil-fueled climate crisis, new deepwater ports and their associated infrastructure threaten sensitive ecosystems, coastlines and ocean waters. They also directly harm the health of frontline communities that have long been treated as sacrifice zones for the fossil fuel industry.

"Where I live in Brazoria County, we're already experiencing extremely poor air quality from fossil fuel pollution, which is causing serious health harm," said Melanie Oldham, president of Citizens for Clean Air and Water in Brazoria County, Texas. "Now they're proposing to build not one but two additional oil export projects. This is not in the interest of our community, and it's not in the interest of the United States. These oil projects are not needed."

New oil and gas export terminals contradict Biden's pledge during this week's COP27 climate summit in Egypt to "take decisive action to decarbonize all key sectors" and "lead global efforts to keep the 1.5 degree goal within reach."

Recent reports have found the world is wildly off track for keeping to that dangerous temperature-rise threshold. There must be no new fossil fuel development starting now to keep that goal within reach.

Deepwater ports also disproportionately harm Black, Indigenous and communities of color, as well as low-income communities. The onshore infrastructure that supports oil and gas imports and exports, such as terminals and pipelines, is concentrated in communities already overburdened with air and water pollution and suffering disproportionate health harms, including cancer, respiratory illness and even premature death.

"Biden has a chance to show his commitment to environmental justice right now by denying the Bluewater Texas Terminal and polluting projects like it," said Elida Castillo, program director of Chispa Texas. "Our communities, economy and planet can't sustain these long-term projects that cause irreparable harm and only benefit the companies and their shareholders. Biden needs to order MARAD and all agencies to stop further fossil fuel project approvals -- and declare a climate emergency to reinstate the crude oil export ban before it's too late for us."

There are six applications for new deepwater port infrastructure pending before MARAD. The legal petition cites the United States' outsize role in fossil fuel production as the key reason it must deny such permits, stating, "as the world's largest oil and gas producer, the U.S. must act swiftly to limit warming if we want to avoid truly apocalyptic climate disruption."

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

(520) 623-5252