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Media Contact:

Rebekah Staub, rstaub@earthworks.org

NEW ORLEANS, La. — Today, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the unsound approval of a massive deepwater oil export facility off the Gulf Coast near Brazoria County, Texas. If built, the Sea Port Oil Terminal (SPOT) will:

  • Emit massive quantities of air pollutants, exacerbating the region’s already impaired air quality. It will also release carbon emissions equivalent to operating nearly 90 new coal-fired power plants
  • Export up to 2 million barrels of crude per day, representing the largest offshore oil export terminal in the United States. 
  • Increase oil export levels by more than 50% and lock in decades of fossil fuel dependence. 
  • Encompass 140 miles of new on- and off-shore pipelines to move thick, toxic oil from inland Texas to the Gulf Coast, posing a substantial risk of spills that would harm coastal communities and marine wildlife, including critically imperiled species. 

For the past four years, advocates have protested the facility as contrary to national interests and have raised concerns to decision-makers about SPOT’s threats to public health and environmental quality and its unquestionable contributions to climate change.

In January 2023, on behalf of a broad coalition of community and environmental petitioners, Sierra Club and partners sued to challenge the licensing of the SPOT project in the Fifth Circuit. The groups argued that the Department of Transportation, led by Secretary Pete Buttigieg and charged with reviewing and licensing deepwater ports, violated the Deepwater Port Act and National Environmental Policy Act by failing to assess the full scope of SPOT’s oil spill and public health risks, as well as threats to critically endangered species like the Rice’s whale, which numbers less than 50 individuals and exclusively inhabits affected Gulf waters. 

In response to the 5th Circuit’s decision, environmental and community advocates issued the following statements:

“Today’s decision out of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals represents a significant loss for frontline communities who for decades have endured pervasive, health-compromising pollution from the fossil fuel industry,” said Sierra Club Senior Attorney Devorah Ancel. “It is in the national interest to halt, not promote, the proliferation of fossil fuel dependence through expanded crude exports that will increase oil spill risk and emissions of cancer-causing, climate-disrupting pollution, which SPOT would generate on a massive scale. This decision overlooks the most current science and data on the climate crisis and imperiled species that the agency had before it in making its licensing decision. We urge the Biden Administration that it’s more important than ever to make good on its promises to combat climate change and address environmental justice in the Gulf South.”

“We are extremely disappointed in the 5th Circuit opinion,” said Melanie Oldham of Better Brazoria: Clean Air and Water. “Enterprise and Enbridge still must meet conditions in the license before they can construct SPOT, and many local residents and Surfside beachgoers and allies will continue to oppose this terrible project, which encompasses tank farms, pipelines, and a nearby offshore port that will cut directly through our beautiful Surfside Beach, Gulf of Mexico waters, marshes, and wetlands. The proposed SPOT Oil Tanker Deepwater Port would be just about 30 miles offshore from three local beaches and would threaten our recreation and ecosystems. It would be an oil spill waiting to happen – impacting our beaches, marine life, and fishing – and it would lower the property value of many residents’ homes. We local residents will continue to speak up and tell local decision-makers and federal government agencies that this SPOT project is NOT in our public interest or the national interest.”  

“The SPOT project exemplifies the dependency the fossil fuel industry is creating at the expense of frontline communities,” said Joanie Steinhaus, Ocean Program Director at Turtle Island Restoration Network. “These projects are destroying habitats for protected and endangered species, in addition to putting members of the communities around them at risk.”

“SPOT and other deepwater crude export projects are dangerous and unnecessary, not to mention a massive pollution bomb that is totally inconsistent with our climate goals,” said Trevor Carroll, Brazoria County Lead Organizer for Texas Campaign for the Environment Fund. “Our fight against this is far from over because sacrificing Gulf Coast communities and the global climate just to make it easier for giant corporations to ship our oil overseas is a terrible idea.”

“Allowing the massively polluting SPOT project to proceed will be devastating to communities and wildlife, locking in decades of climate pollution,” said Lauren Parker, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “This project will continue to make sacrifice zones of Gulf communities. It’s an enormous threat to the existence of critically endangered Rice’s whales and the habitat that so much wildlife depends on. The fight doesn’t stop until we have a healthy Gulf with clean air and water, scenic coasts and thriving communities free of oil and gas pollution.”

Petitioners included Better Brazoria (fka Citizens for Clean Air and Clean Water of Brazoria County), Texas Campaign for the Environment, Turtle Island Restoration Network, Center for Biological Diversity, and Sierra Club.