Discussion on pause/ban of LNG exports takes centerstage in Port Arthur

Published 7:21 pm Monday, April 8, 2024

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U.S. Rep. Randy Weber, along with members of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy, Climate and Grid Security, gathered Monday in Port Arthur for a field hearing on President Joe Biden’s LNG export pause.

The hearing, held in the Carl A. Parker Multipurpose Center, featured four witnesses who testified on the topic, Mayor Thurman Bartie; Lamar State College Port Arthur President Dr. Betty Reynard; John Beard, founder, president and executive director of Port Arthur Community Action Network; and Larry Kelley, director of the Port of Port Arthur.

Each of the four testifying witnesses brought something different to the table; Bartie on the future economic impact on the community by the LNG industry, with hopes a compromise can be made for environmental wellness and economic stability.

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Reynard painted a picture of LSCPA and acknowledged the impact the pause on LNG exports has on the college.

The college is situated in one of the most urban and economically disadvantaged communities in the state, she said, where the per capita income is $24,065 and 27.6 percent of Port Arthur residents live below the poverty level.

The college offers a chance at an education and step toward a better income.

The LNG industry dedicated hundreds and thousands of dollars to scholarships, equipment, internships, grants, support and training programs, she said.

But should the pause continue it would likely impact the workforce and those training for the workforce.

“Generally speaking, the impacts of reduced industry support will contribute to the low educational attainment and existing poverty in Port Arthur,” Reynard said. “It is my hope that the information provided will help make an informed decision regarding pause and the LNG exports.”

Ban vs. pause

U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-South Carolina, said in January, Biden issued an indefinite ban on the export permits.

“The rash decision by the Biden Administration will have a nationwide impact that will be detrimental to jobs and the economic development in communities like this one that support U.S. LNG industry,” Duncan said.

U.S. Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, D-Texas, noted disagreement with the title of the hearing.

“January’s announcement from the Biden Administration is not an export ban. LNG exports continue and will continue each day,” Fletcher said. “The administration announced a temporary pause on the approval of export permits of the Department of Energy while it reviews and updates its public interest determination process. Facilities with existing permits will continue to operate and fill orders.”

This includes facilities that are under construction and several that have not even begun construction. Proposed projects, which go through a multi-step process, continue to advance through FERC for the siting, construction and operation of facilities, she added.

Fletcher noted the pause has caused concern and uncertainty for people and projects, thus the reason for the fact gathering hearing on Monday.

Weber, whose district stretches from Lake Jackson up to Orange, said Biden’s actions would have a ripple effect throughout Southeast Texas.

His concern also includes the investments that have benefitted the community with jobs and more.