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Last month, the Biden administration announced a pause on new liquefied natural gas export approvals while it reconsiders the impacts these projects have on the public’s health and safety, the climate, the economy and national security. This “pause” is a baby step in the right direction.

To all of my relatives living along the Gulf Coast, let’s continue supporting one another and lifting one another up in our ongoing struggle to heal our lands and our communities that have long been devastated by the cumulative impacts of the oil and gas industry, environmental racism and deliberate economic abandonment.

Unfortunately for Esto’k Gna (human people), the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of which I’m a member, and the communities of the Rio Grande Valley, the proposed LNG facilities at the Port of Brownsville are not paused.

A view of the Port of Brownsville from State Hwy 4 Monday afternoon, June 5, 2023. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald)

Please open your eyes to what is clear to me and many of my relatives: In the RGV, fossil fuel CEOs, along with one of the wealthiest men in the world, are colonizing and destroying our lands without the consent of the people who live here and without the consent of the original, indigenous people of the land. We in the Rio Grande Valley and South Texas are witnessing our lands being exploited, our air being polluted and our voices ignored, all so that extractive industries and millionaires and billionaires can make record profits while the rest of us suffer, and the land, water and air are poisoned.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Biden administration approved Texas LNG, Rio Grande LNG and the associated Rio Bravo Pipeline against the wishes of the most affected communities and without the consent of the original people of the land.

Our wetlands are being bulldozed despite the fact that wetlands help protect our communities from hurricanes and provide wildlife with a home. So the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe has joined a lawsuit against the projects’ permits. Our sacred lands containing the memory, the artifacts and legacy of our ancestors are being industrialized.

So we continue to tell the story of our people. Our local eco-tourist economy is threatened by the false promise of thousands of LNG jobs despite these numbers never materializing. So we continue to fight back against tax abatements for these wealthy companies that don’t need them.

Our places that support recreation, healthy air and biodiverse creatures are being sold for a lie that our communities need this polluting infrastructure. So we continue to urge investors that these projects are a bad investment, remind people that 100% of LNG coming through Brownsville would be exported to the global market despite gas consumption in Europe just hitting a 10-year low, and speak the truth that LNG only raises gas bills here at home while zero profits will be distributed to our local communities that endure all the harms.

I also would like to reframe the urge to herald the pause as a massive victory. In fact, because the planned Brownsville LNG facilities are not paused, the administration continues to treat the Rio Grande Valley as a sacrifice zone without our consent.

Texas evening primrose blooms in a vacant lot adjacent to the site of a former oil refinery in south Donna. The industrial site may soon be used for liquefied natural gas or green hydrogen. (Dina Arévalo | [email protected])

These facilities should never have been approved in the first place. FERC — the supposedly independent agency that tirelessly greenlights new fossil fuel infrastructure — as well as the Department of Energy conducted reviews that failed to account for the numerous harmful impacts of these projects and entirely ignored the wishes of local communities and the original people of the land.

No matter what happens after this pause is over, community members in the Rio Grande Valley will continue resisting all of these harmful projects — whether they are awaiting approval, under construction or fully operating — because we know all too well that it’s our health, safety and livelihoods at risk — and most of us do not have access to health care. We’ll keep going until we ensure that our community no longer has to bear the brunt of these projects just to keep the fossil fuel industry’s relentless thirst for record profits satisfied.

The government cannot continue subsidizing the fossil fuel industry and approving any and all new fossil fuel projects, especially those that only benefit private shareholders while they poison the land, the air and the water. Hitting pause on new LNG projects is a start, but we have a long way to go before we achieve climate justice and end environmental racism through fighting LNG — and SpaceX — in the RGV, saving Garcia Pasture and freeing Palestine.

Christopher Basaldú, PhD, is a member of the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas, a Brownsville resident and a member of the South Texas Environmental Justice Network.