Federal regulators have granted an environmental coalition legal status to intervene in a permit application for one of three liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facilities proposed at the Port of Brownsville, which sits at the tip of Texas on the Mexico border.

In an order issued last Friday, FERC said Save RVG’s Dec. 12 motion on environmental grounds was unopposed and considered timely as it was filed before the Dec. 17 deadline for filing comments on the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) issued for Texas LNG Brownsville LLC’s proposed export terminal in Cameron County.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s public notice of the application had set May 5, 2016, as the deadline to file motions to intervene. Motions to intervene on environmental grounds, however, are deemed timely if filed during the comment period of the DEIS.

In its motion, Save RGV said it had an interest in the proceeding because members “have environmental, aesthetic, and economic interests that will be directly affected by the project.”

“Now that Save RGV from LNG has been granted intervenor status by the FERC, our coalition has the opportunity to make our case to the Commission that this LNG project would be a threat to the health and safety of our community,” spokeswoman Martha Pena said. “It also allows us to appeal the Commission's final ruling, should it come to that point.”

The initial phase of the Texas LNG facility would have a capacity of 2 million metric tons/year (mmty), while Phase 2 would be developed at a later date and double capacity to 4 mmty. The terminal would be fed via a yet-to-be-constructed intrastate pipeline accessing supply from the Agua Dulce hub near Corpus Christi, which is about 150 miles north of Brownsville.

Agua Dulce interconnects with interstate and intrastate pipelines that include Texas Eastern Transmission (Tetco), Tennessee Gas Pipeline, facilities of Energy Transfer Partners LP and Enterprise Product Partners LP, Natural Gas Pipeline Co. of America and Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line.

FERC’s DEIS indicated that the project would result in adverse environmental impacts, but with a single exception, they would be reduced to insignificant levels with mitigation measures [CP16-116]. Impacts on visual resources could be significant when viewed from the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, staff said.

Project developers are expecting FERC to issue a final EIS by March 15 and a final decision by June 13. Texas LNG plans to reach final investment decision in late 2019, and if positive, it has said first exports could begin in 2023 or 2024. Phase 2 exports would begin one or two years later.

The project, which would be on the deepwater Brownsville Ship Channel, is one of three LNG export facilities proposed at the port. FERC issued a positive DEIS for Annova LNG Brownsville in December and for NextDecade Corp.'s Rio Grande LNG project in October.

Pena criticized Tetco pipeline operator Enbridge Inc. after an explosion on the pipeline Monday left two people injured and three homes damaged. “The fact that Texas LNG proposes to connect to the existing Valley Crossing Pipeline raises a red flag. The Valley Crossing Pipeline is owned by Enbridge, a company that has a well documented history of leaks and explosions -- the most recent occurring in Ohio on Monday. We have a responsibility to keep our community safe and preserve this special part of South Texas for future generations.”