FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 1, 2020
Collin Rees, collin [at] priceofoil.org
Ethan Buckner, ebuckner [at] earthworks.org
As Sea Port Oil Terminal comment period closes, advocates submit tens of thousands of comments opposed
Impacted communities call for Coast Guard to deny license for offshore oil terminal that threatens coastal communities and endangered species as Coast Guard tells company it’s likely its “application won’t be processed within statutory timeframe”
SURFSIDE BEACH, TEXAS — Today the U.S. Maritime Administration’s (MARAD) public comment period ended for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for Enterprise and Enbridge’s proposed Sea Port Oil Terminal (SPOT). Local residents and concerned advocates submitted over 38,000 comments in opposition to the project, highlighting the risk that SPOT project poses to waterways, endangered species, public health, local economies, and the global climate.
The close of the public comment period comes as a U.S. Coast Guard letter to the company revealed that SPOT has stopped paying Environmental Resource Management (ERM), a third-party consultant responsible for drafting much of the SPOT DEIS, reviewing public comments, and advancing the project’s environmental review. In the letter, Coast Guard Commander M.J. Greenway states that ceasing ERM’s work will “effectively stop” the processing of SPOT’s Deepwater Port License application, increasing the “likelihood that [SPOT’s] application will not be processed within the Deepwater Port Act statutory timeframe.”
The opposing comments echo the call of impacted local governments that have also called for the project’s denial. On March 11, the Surfside Beach City Council voted unanimously to oppose the project, and on May 21, Oyster Creek Mayor Justin Miller expressed similar opposition to the project.
Area residents, advocates, and state agencies including the Texas General Land Office have identified significant deficiencies in the project’s environmental review. Given all of these issues, advocates are calling for MARAD to deny SPOT’s Deepwater Port License.
“Our community has been resoundingly clear that we do not want SPOT — not in Surfside and not anywhere along our coast,” said Melinda Wilhelm, resident of Surfside Beach. “Surfside Beach thrives on tourism. We cherish our nesting turtles. Everything that makes our community special could be wiped out with a major oil spill.”
“The Maritime Administration has all the evidence it needs to deny SPOT’s Deepwater Port License, compelling legal to reason to do so, and overwhelming public demand that they do,” said Ethan Buckner, Energy Campaigner at Earthworks. “Issuing a permit under these circumstances would declare oil & gas industry interests trump the public interest.”
“SPOT is a clear risk to Surfside, Brazoria County, the Gulf Coast, and the climate, said Collin Rees, Senior Campaigner at Oil Change International. “The project would enable the buildout of fossil fuel infrastructure that would threaten Texas’s natural environment and pollute for decades — MARAD should deny SPOT’s application immediately.”
“Tens of thousands of Texans have sent a clear message that this project poses an unacceptable risk to communities, wildlife, and the climate,” said Devorah Ancel, Senior Attorney at the Sierra Club. “The fact that the company behind SPOT is incapable of providing relevant project information to the public and decision makers and unable to complete an adequate environmental review within the legally required timeline makes it all the more obvious that MARAD should reject this dangerous project once and for all.”
“Texas Campaign for the Environment reached out to area residents in February in advance of the public meeting. It was clear that the company and government agencies had not done a good job of letting people know that this massive facility was being proposed that could have a big impact on their communities and our coastline,” said Brittani Flowers, Gulf Coast Program Director at Texas Campaign for the Environment. “We are heartened to see thousands of people weighing in and local government officials and local, state and national environmental organizations giving this project the scrutiny it deserves.”
About the SPOT project
If built, the Sea Port Oil Terminal would pump two million barrels of Permian crude oil every day through fifty miles of new pipeline to a new massive oil storage facility in Oyster Creek, Texas. From there, twin pipelines would cut straight through Surfside Beach and into the ocean to a loading platform 30 miles off the Gulf Coast. This infrastructure would serve to load the largest oil tankers in the world, called Very Large Crude Carriers, for export to global markets. The project would cross 129 water bodies en route to the coast, threatening wetlands, waterways, and the well water the Surfside community relies on.
The terminal would move more crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico on an annual basis than is currently produced on offshore drilling platforms off the Gulf Coast in an average year. An oil spill could devastate fragile coastal ecosystems still recovering ten years after the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, and harm fishing and tourism industries that are so critical to the region. And with numerous treasured and critically endangered species calling Surfside a home, the risk is too enormous to ignore.