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Media Contact:

Rebekah Staub, Permian-Gulf Communications Manager, rstaub@earthworks.org

WASHINGTON — Despite pledging to prioritize climate change and environmental justice in its decision making, and coming on the heels of promising further emissions reduction, the Biden Administration today approved the application for the Sea Port Oil Terminal (SPOT), a new offshore oil export terminal that will increase cancer-causing air pollutants in Texas’ Brazoria and Harris counties and make climate change worse.

The Maritime Administration’s (MARAD) decision requires SPOT LLC to comply with conditions on the issuance of the permit, including state and federal permitting, detailed construction plans, and the development of operation manuals before MARAD issues the license. This decision comes on the heels of a news article that discloses that SPOT will now be required to make a significant design modification to its offshore buoy infrastructure. Yet the agencies have issued this decision without reviewing the new design or evaluating the potentially significant change in impacts it could have on the surrounding environment.

Today’s decision follows a three-year federal review process including a final environmental impact statement and public input process that resulted in more than 80,000 written comments submitted in opposition of the project. As recently as last week, more than 40 organizations signed a letter asking the Biden Administration to deny this project. Additionally, 290 organizations recently filed a legal petition with MARAD demanding that the Biden Administration immediately halt any new approvals of new deepwater port infrastructure, including SPOT, as contrary to national interest.  

SPOT is one of four deepwater crude export facilities proposed for the Gulf of Mexico which already is overburdened by fossil fuel industry development, and continually shoulders the burden of climate change-induced natural disasters caused by emissions from fossil fuel production and use. 

Ultimate license issuance by MARAD would allow Enterprise and Enbridge to export more than 2 million barrels of crude oil each day on massive tankers the size of the Empire State Building, locking-in global fossil fuel dependence for the next thirty years. SPOT would cause the emissions of hazardous cancer-causing air pollution and more than 300 million tons of greenhouse gasses each year. That is the carbon equivalent of operating more than 80 coal-fired power plants. SPOT requires the build out of 140 miles of onshore and offshore pipeline infrastructure, threatening frontline communities, water resources, ecosystems and endangered wildlife with destructive oil spills. This project will worsen environmental racism and further harm the health of predominantly low-income communities and communities of color. The air quality in these communities has failed to meet EPA standards for decades and is home to some of the highest cancer clusters in the nation.

Statements from Texas Coast residents and allied organizations: 

“Freeport has been a dumping ground for these oil & gas plants for decades. DOW Chemical, Freeport LNG, and other fossil fuel and petrochemical companies have already had toxic emission releases night and day. There has never been any recourse,” said Gwen Jones from Freeport, TX. “Why does this keep happening? Because we are poor minorities. The company claims that SPOT will be good, but in reality, it’s a death sentence for my community. It is clear our voices are not being listened to by decision-makers. This must change.”

“We’ve commented to MARAD, the EPA, and other regulatory agencies many times about the harmful pollution from the existing oil and gas facilities, and the proposed SPOT terminal in our community,” said Melanie Oldham from Freeport, TX with Citizens for Clean Air and Water of Freeport and Brazoria County. “Our region already has a severe ozone problem. SPOT will add significant amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other pollutants, and the regulators aren’t requiring them to install the most stringent pollution reduction technology. This will only harm our community’s health even more.”  

“The company Enterprise has no plans set in place for fishing and tourism losses when the SPOT terminal inevitably spills oil. Enterprise has a terrible spill record, and they choose to run these pipelines right up our ass,” said Donna Robinson from Surfside Beach and with Stop SPOT & TX Gulflink. “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.”

“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,” said Kelsey Crane, senior policy advocate at Earthworks. “This administration has the power to stop crude oil export projects and limit fossil fuels, an essential missing piece of U.S. climate policy. 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.”

“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,” said Rebekah Hinojosa, Sierra Club Gulf Coast Campaign Representative. “What will it take for the Biden Administration and regulators to hear Gulf Coast voices over industry lobbyists? They’ve sold out communities again by approving the application for SPOT.” 

“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. 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,” said Destiny Watford, climate campaigner at Greenpeace USA. “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.”

“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 dangerous fossil fuel projects like SPOT off our coasts.”

“It is unacceptable that Buttigieg and Biden are yet again sacrificing an environmental justice community on the Gulf Coast for the sake of oil industry profits,” said Trevor Carroll, Fossil Fuel Exports Organizer with Texas Campaign for the Environment.