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Media Contact:

Rebekah Staub, Earthworks, rstaub@earthworks.org

WASHINGTON — Gulf Coast community groups and environmental advocates are urging the Biden Administration to reevaluate the criteria used to determine whether massively expanding U.S. crude oil exports that lock in decades of fossil fuel dependence and harm Gulf Coast communities is in the “national interest.” 

The letter explains the scope of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s duties and how the agency’s evaluation of deepwater crude export applications currently falls short. It lays out the harmful impacts of licensing annual exports of hundreds of millions of barrels of crude oil on the climate, environmental justice, air quality, the critically endangered Rice’s whales, and domestic energy supplies.   

As with the recent announcement on methane gas exports (or LNG), the groups are also calling on the Department of Transportation to pause any new reviews or certifications of deepwater fossil fuel export facilities while the agency ensures it is properly executing its Deepwater Port Act duties to guarantee that any project it approves is consistent with the national interest.

Currently, there are at least four deepwater crude oil export facilities under review or recently authorized by DOT. In April, DOT rushed out a final license to the Sea Port Oil Terminal (SPOT) without first ensuring the project had obtained all its necessary permits and approvals that would help to avoid, or mitigate, the possibility of environmental disaster or harm to the national interest. Issuing just one 30-year license could expand U.S. export volumes by one-half and lead to greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to operating nearly 90 new coal-fired power plants, in addition to other public health and water and air pollution harms.

Melanie Oldham, Freeport resident and founder and director of Better Brazoria, said:

“Two of the four proposed Very Large Crude Carrier export terminals are planned for our overburdened communities in Brazoria County. For four years, we have been asking the Biden Administration to reject SPOT and the other offshore terminals because of the disproportionate public health and environmental harms they will generate in our region. The Maritime Administration granted permits to SPOT anyway, ignoring the technical and public comments detailing all the ways these fossil fuel projects will adversely impact our communities and the climate. It is time for the Biden Administration to halt licensing of offshore crude export terminals, like it has for LNG terminals, to improve the agency’s assessments for determining whether these projects are in the nation’s interest.” 

James Hiatt, founder and director of For a Better Bayou, said:

“It’s hard to call yourself a Climate President when more fossil fuels are being produced and exported by the U.S. than ever before. Approving massive oil export terminals in the Gulf of Mexico not only exacerbates our deadly fossil fuel addiction, but also blatantly disregards the health and wellbeing of environmental justice communities in the region. This Administration is acting less like a beacon of hope and more like an enabler of dirty energy. It is time for a course correction towards real climate action.” 

Roishetta Sibley Ozane, founder and director of The Vessel Project of Louisiana said: 

“This summer is predicted to be the hottest summer in history and this hurricane season is predicted to be one of the most active seasons ever. We’ve already experienced several tornadoes and torrential downpours this spring. We can’t take anymore. The recent 5th Circuit decision and DOT’s issuance of a final license to the SPOT terminal would result in a significant increase in greenhouse gas pollution, posing a grave threat to our climate and public welfare. It is time for the White House and DOT to prioritize a thorough and unbiased assessment of the environmental and public welfare harms these expansions pose. We cannot sacrifice our planet’s future for short-term economic gains. It is crucial that responsible decision-making and sustainability guide our energy system for the sake of future generations.”

Allison Woolverton, Federal Fossil Fuels Campaign Manager at Earthworks said:

“Continuing to pollute communities and contribute to the climate crisis is clearly contrary to the national interest. No more projects like SPOT should be considered until the Department of Transportation updates the criteria it uses to evaluate the impacts crude oil export projects have on the climate, public health, and environment. What is in the national interest is to halt the myriad environmental injustices associated with producing and exporting oil and gas in the U.S.”