Contreras: RGV, South Texas, Grounded by Strong Energy Sector

Across South Texas, from the Rio Grande Valley up to Corpus Christi and Laredo, there’s a story of dynamic growth, new investment and a strong economy to be told.

What’s at the heart of our economic muscle? It’s a strong Texas oil and natural gas sector.

The direct and indirect benefits that flow from a strong energy economy are also driving our region forward in so many ways.

Most often you hear about the big numbers. Texas’ oil and natural gas sector contributes substantial tax revenue to local communities, school districts and the state of Texas. Last year alone, Texas’ oil and natural gas producers contributed $9.4 billion in state and local taxes and state royalties. On a per employee basis, the oil and natural gas taxes and royalties is the most paid by any industry sector – six times more than other business sectors, in fact.

But, those big numbers and impact aren’t driven just by traditional West Texas oil counties. In Webb County, for example, oil and natural gas accounts for 31 percent of the local tax base. That’s money for roads, schools and essential services that our communities rely on and that make cities attractive for corporate relocations, expansion and investment.

And, then there’s the indirect benefits that come along with a strong energy sector. Our ports of entry are booming due to the trade of oil and natural gas, which we see come across the Port of Brownsville and our land ports of entry.

View the rest of the story at the Rio Grande Guardian.

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The Port of Brownsville, a deep-water seaport located on the southernmost tip of Texas along the U.S.-Mexico border, opened for business 80 years ago in 1936. This port is the largest land-owning public port authority in the nation with approximately 40,000 acres. The Port of Brownsville has the opportunity to bring a new industry to the region that could provide jobs and an economic boost for decades to come. Exelon Generation, majority shareholder of Annova LNG, is exploring the potential of building a liquefied natural gas (LNG) transfer terminal at the Port of Brownsville.

Annova LNG currently has a lease option on a piece of property that sits on the south side of the 17-mile ship channel, approximately 8 miles inland. Although the ship channel was dredged in the middle of the last century, it was never fully developed. With the growing demand for natural gas in other parts of the world where it doesn’t exist, and with the abundance of it in South Texas, Annova LNG sees an opportunity to make the Port of Brownsville a global energy hub, which could provide a range of economic benefits to the local and regional economy.

If built, Annova LNG would invest nearly $3 billion in construction costs and support an average of 700 on-site jobs monthly over a four-year period. These are jobs that would be filled in the Rio Grande Valley.

Upon completion of the LNG plant, Annova LNG would employ approximately 165 permanent full-time workers to run and manage the plant. The average base salary would be $70,000 per year, with benefits raising total compensation to $110,000.

The economic impact would also help retain and expand other port businesses, as well as provide an indirect boost to other local businesses, such as engineering and design firms and construction subcontractors, suppliers and service providers. Given that 35 percent of residents in Cameron County live below the poverty level, the proposed Annova LNG project would be a much-needed economic boost.

Unlike other proposed LNG plants, Annova LNG would be a mid-scale processing and export facility that would serve a niche market of off-takers who need smaller LNG deliveries.

Exelon Generation and Annova LNG are committed to protecting the safety of Rio Grande Valley residents and the environment of the region. Natural gas is a much cleaner energy source than oil or coal and is used in stoves, hot water heaters and furnaces to heat homes. It is also now increasingly used as a fuel source to generate electricity and alternative-fueled vehicles. LNG is non-flammable, will not explode, and has no odor. In fact, LNG plants have operated for more than 50 years without an incident that affected public safety.

In order to be built, the Annova LNG project must meet standards for public safety and environmental protection established by numerous federal, state and local authorities, including the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Texas Fish and Wildlife Department and Cameron County. In fact, Annova LNG and its majority owner, Exelon, recently made a $40,000 donation to help protect and monitor endangered ocelots in South Texas. The donation was made to the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Institute at Texas A&M University-Kingsville to help buy GPS tracking collars and other devices that will help monitor and research the ocelot population.

The Annova LNG project is a tremendous opportunity for Brownsville and the Rio Grande Valley, and residents should embrace it. For all the reasons detailed above, we urge FERC and other decision makers to expeditiously approve the Annova LNG project at the Port of Brownsville.