Shrimpers join environmentalists in protest of LNG terminal expansions

Louisiana would become leading natural gas exporter

By: - November 10, 2022 10:05 am

A liquified natural gas tanker carries the commodity from a terminal. (Canva image)

A group of Lake Charles residents assembled on a flotilla of shrimp and fishing boats last week to protest the planned construction of new liquefied natural gas terminals nearby. It took place while petroleum industry executives watched from a nearby casino where they held an LNG summit.

The Louisiana Bucket Brigade, a grassroots environmental organization, helped organize the protest alongside local shrimpers and fishermen opposed to the expansion of new LNG export terminals in Cameron and Calcasieu parishes.

If the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee approves all of the proposed gas export terminal projects in both parishes, there could be 10 such facilities in the area that currently has just three.

Venture Global, which has an existing terminal and another under construction in Cameron Parish, wants to add two more. Sempra-Cameron LNG also has a terminal and another awaiting construction in Cameron, where Commonwealth LNG has also proposed a terminal.

In Calcasieu, Driftwood LNG has a terminal under construction, and Lake Charles LNG and Magnolia LNG have terminals approved and awaiting construction.

Cameron Parish shrimper Travis Dardar, who led the flotilla, said he is fighting to protect his livelihood from companies that want to fill the fishing grounds with concrete and emit pollutants into the nearby environment.

“They expect us to just sit there and take it?” Dardar said in a Bucket Brigade press release. “Hell no. I’ve been a fisherman all my life and so have most of us here, and ain’t no way we’re gonna let them destroy our way of life.”

Dardar said oil and gas activity is more catastrophic than hurricanes because wetlands cannot be replaced once concrete pads are built in their place.

The flotilla motored back and forth in front of the Golden Nugget Casino where fossil fuel industry executives from around the country gathered for the 2022 Americas LNG & Gas Summit, an annual conference and networking event.

Hung from one commercial shrimping boat was a banner that read: “More LNG? No fracking way. Save the Gulf.” Other boats followed with signs and protesters chanting. A video that a Bucket Brigade member shot from inside the casino and posted to Twitter showed several summit attendees watching the protest from a window that overlooks the water.

The protesters later gathered onshore to share stories, eat gumbo and dance to Zydeco music.

“It’s sad that we’re getting this shoved down our throat. It’s wrong,” local shrimper Jimmy Dison said,  recalling how local leaders said the industry would benefit the area. “It ain’t home no more because of what they’ve done to our little town. They lied to us and told us it’s gonna help the town. That’s bull. It helped a few people … I’ve been through it for 60 years. I’ve seen a lot of changes.”

However, natural gas has proponents who see it as a cleaner alternative to coal and a fuel to bridge the gap to renewable energies such as solar and wind. Gov. John Bel Edwards has supported LNG projects as part of his “all of the above” approach to the climate crisis.

Louisiana Oil and Gas Association President Mike Moncla said the world will need fossil fuels and renewables to keep up with the ever-increasing demand for energy.

“As the world population grows from 7.5 billion people to 10 billion over the next 30 years, it will take wind, solar, geothermal, nuclear, fossil fuels and others to provide energy to the masses,” Moncla said. “Fossil fuel energy is reliable, abundant, and affordable and provides countless byproducts that the world is dependent on. The world will need renewables, but fossil fuels will be around for decades to come.”

Since Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s unlawful invasion of Ukraine, American energy companies have planned immense expansions of their LNG production abilities in an effort to meet demand in Europe that Russia currently supplies. However, most of the new supply the industry envisions is years away from shipping and will likely go to China, according to a Washington Post report.

U.S. natural gas exports did not even exist a decade ago, except for small volumes that went to Mexico and Canada via pipeline. The process was too inefficient, so the only shipping terminals that existed were built for importing gas. That changed with the hydraulic fracturing or fracking boom, which rapidly increased supply and made the fuel so cheap, it drove some companies to near bankruptcy.

In 2013, the Obama administration relaxed federal regulations to fast-track approvals of LNG exports. The commodity price hit a 16-year low in 2015, driving exports to substantially increase each year since then, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Dardar, who lives near Venture Global’s Calcasieu Pass facility, said his catch has become smaller every year, and that Venture’s facility has released toxic flares almost constantly since it began operating in January. Before then, near constant construction on the massive terminal would keep Dardar and his kids awake at night, he said.

“This plant pretty much covers the entire fishing grounds,” Dardar said in a video published on Facebook. “If they build the next one only a couple hundred feet from our property, they’ll be rattling the pictures off the wall … I feel like it’s over. We don’t know what tomorrow brings.”

Moncla said LNG is one of the cleanest forms of energy on the planet and is an abundant resource in the state. He said the proposed terminals will place Louisiana on the worldwide stage as a gas exporter.

“Liquified natural gas is one of the cleanest, most efficient means of energy that our planet offers,” Moncla said in an email. “With our three terminals already in operation in Cameron, Louisiana has become a national leader in LNG exports, and with the number of terminals proposed or already under construction, this would only bolster Louisiana’s leadership in that market. The future is very bright indeed for Louisiana’s LNG market.”

Venture Global did not respond to a request for comment. 

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Wesley Muller
Wesley Muller

Wes Muller traces his journalism roots back to 1997 when, at age 13, he built and launched a hyper-local news website for his New Orleans neighborhood. In the years since then, he has freelanced for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans and worked on staff at the Sun Herald in Biloxi, WAFB-9News CBS in Baton Rouge, and the Enterprise-Journal in McComb, Mississippi. He also taught English as an adjunct instructor at Baton Rouge Community College. Among his recognitions are McClatchy's National President's Award, the Associated Press Freedom of Information Award, and the Daniel M. Phillips Freedom of Information Award from the Mississippi Press Association. Muller is an alumnus of Jesuit High School and the University of New Orleans and is a veteran U.S. Army paratrooper. He lives in Louisiana with his wife and two sons.

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