Pablo De La Rosa is a freelance journalist, reporting statewide for Texas Public Radio and nationally for NPR.

Liquified Natural Gas Corp NextDecade echoes SpaceX promises to “invest in the future” of the Rio Grande Valley

A liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanker is tugged towards a thermal power station in Futtsu, east of Tokyo, Japan November 13, 2017. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) developer NextDecade Corp. Senior Vice President David Keane stated the company’s commitment to “invest significantly in the Rio Grande Valley’s future” last week at the South Padre Island Chamber of Commerce’s monthly board meeting, according to a report from The Port Isabel South Padre Press.

Keane said that NextDecade planned to become “part of the community for the long-term” as he announced the formation of a new “Community Advisory Board”.

According to the report, Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño and other city leaders have “already committed” to the board.

The statements echo efforts by SpaceX, another out-of-region Corporation who has already established operations in the Rio Grande Valley and has responded to community concerns over environmental issues with community service efforts over the past two years.

Radio report for Texas Public Radio

In July, Treviño told The Rio Grande Guardian that SpaceX was “becoming a good corporate citizen of the Rio Grande Valley”.

From the Rio Grande Guardian Article:

By way of example, Treviño pointed to the help SpaceX provided when 3,000 endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles were saved during the Big Freeze of February 2021. Another example, he said, was when the City of Los Indios lost power and SpaceX sent a generator.

“They are becoming, I think, a good member of the community. A lot of that stuff doesn’t get advertised or well-known because the focus, obviously, is on their business operations. But, I think they are committed to being a good corporate citizen,” Treviño said.

In response, Helen Ramirez, the City of Brownsville’s interim city manager and the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation’s executive director, pointed out that the Musk Foundation donated $20 million to Cameron County schools and $10 million to revitalization plans for downtown Brownsville.

However, for some concerns, the community service offered by SpaceX has done little to address the challenges that the space startup has brought to Boca Chica beach in Brownsville, Texas where it now operates.

Gabby Brown, a Communications Manager with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign, said in a statement in June that “the expansion to launch the biggest rocket in human history, the Starship/Super Heavy, will cause significantly more harm and  destruction to nearby wildlife refuges and communities from rocket explosions.”

Brown said that Federal regulation agencies have failed to properly “analyze the cumulative impacts of SpaceX operations in conjunction with existing and proposed oil and gas projects in the region such as LNG plants, the Jupiter oil export terminal, the Rio Bravo Pipeline, and the Valley Crossing Pipeline at the Port of Brownsville”.

Emma Guevara, a Brownsville organizer with the South Texas Environmental Justice Network, also expressed concern with the environmental challenges that community service by SpaceX has failed to address.

“It is incredibly disappointing and frustrating that the FAA has chosen to ignore the myriad examples of SpaceX’s negative impact on Boca Chica and act against the best interest of Rio Grande Valley communities by approving the SpaceX expansion,” said Guevara. “We need our elected officials, government leaders, and the public to understand that this project is incredibly threatening to our community and our way of life.”

Environmental advocates in the region are now similarly opposing LNG projects in the region. Most recently, the Sierra Club launched a campaign to pressure the financial institutions who are partially funding LNG projects in the Rio Grande Valley.

A campaign by Sierra Club intended to put pressure on the financial institutions partially funding LNG projects in the Rio Grande Valley.

From the Sierra Club campaign page:

Rio Grande Valley (RGV) is one of the few remaining communities on the Gulf Coast of Texas without fossil fuel refineries and flare stacks. Three banks from different corners of the world – Macquarie Capital (Australia), Société Générale (France), and Credit Suisse (Switzerland) – threaten to disrupt this community achievement by financially backing two projects in the area that would produce liquified natural gas (LNG), a liquefied version of fracked gas. Together, the two LNG projects, Rio Grande LNG and Texas LNG, would release as much greenhouse gas emissions as approximately 40.4 million cars each year. 

However, Keane said that the future NextDecade LNG operation in the Rio Grande Valley will be an “environmentally sustainable project” in an address to Port of Brownsville’s leadership and dignitaries in July, according to The Rio Grande Guardian.

From the Rio Grande Guardian publication of Keane’s address:

We plan to make Rio Grande LNG one of the most sustainable LNG export projects by combining mission reductions associated with our carbon capture and storage project, utilizing responsibly sourced natural gas and our pledge to use net zero electricity. We expect Rio Grande LNG to produce a lower carbon intensive LNG and provide a more sustainable product to our customers around the world.

As an example of our sustainability pledge, when Rio Grande LNG is fully operational we expect to reduce the plant’s greenhouse gas emissions by more than five million tons per annum. This represents more than a 90 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the plant when it was first designed.

According to Keane, the LNG operations in the Rio Grande Valley will increase GDP in Cameron County by $6 Billion over the first four years.

“Rio Grande LNG is the largest privately funded infrastructure project in the state of Texas,” said Keane in the address. “And NextDecade is proud to be in the Rio Grande Valley for a long time.”


Pablo De La Rosa reports on immigration, border communities, preserving democracy, and Latin America for Texas Public Radio and NPR from the Texas-Mexico border, where he grew up. He’s the host of the daily Spanish newscast TPR Noticias Al Día and a regular contributor at The Border Chronicle.

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