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French bank Société Générale withdraws from Rio Grande LNG project in South Texas

Activists gather on the side of Highway 48, between Port Isabel and Brownsville, just outside of the Rio Grande LNG site, protesting gas projects in the area.
Gaige Davila
/
TPR
Activists gather on the side of Highway 48, between Port Isabel and Brownsville, just outside of the Rio Grande LNG site, protesting gas projects in the area.

French bank Société Générale announced Tuesday morning that it would be pulling financial support of NextDecade’s Rio Grande LNG export plant project in South Texas.

Rio Grande LNG is a proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) export plant project in an area between Brownsville and Port Isabel, Texas, which would export gas through the yet-to-be-built Rio Bravo pipeline running from Agua Dulce, Texas.

The company claims it will be the “greenest LNG project in the world,” via a Carbon Capture System (CCS) that will take carbon emissions from the plant and inject them into the earth. The CCS is still under review by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the storage site for the carbon has not been determined, and has been criticized by activists as greenwashing.

U.S. and French activists have been protesting Société Générale since the bank was listed as Rio Grande LNG’s financial advisor in 2017.

Of these activists were members of the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas. Rio Grande LNG, along with Texas LNG, another export plant project, are in an area known as the Garcia Pasture. The World Monuments Fund recognizes the area as an archaeological site, where there are remnants of a village, burial ground, rock art and more from the tribe’s ancestors.

“We traveled to Paris in 2017 to meet with Société Générale bank officials. We protested outside their bank offices, confronted their shareholders, and were booed at their meeting. Years and years of facing these banks and demanding that they step off our sacred lands and sacred sites have led us to these great victories,” Juan Mancias, chairman of the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas, said in a press release.

“But we won't back down," Mancias continued. "Rio Grande LNG has been bulldozing our sacred lands—it is corporate theater for its investors because the company has been delayed for years and is not authorized to build anything. They have already desecrated the ground and the ancestors are angry. The Port of Brownsville commissioners are following bad business ventures.”

Mancias is referring to NextDecade, which is based in Houston, clearing land at the site last October, with the company saying it was doing deep soil mixing and testing. Since then, several acres of land have been cleared, though NextDecade has yet to decide whether it will go through with the project or not.

Currently, members of the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas are protesting oil and gas projects across the state. Called “Bridge to the Ancestors,” members are walking from Balmorhea in West Texas to Port Isabel, visiting communities impacted by LNG pipelines and export plant projects.

The company has become more active in the last year, after several delays to the project dating back to 2015, when NextDecade said it would be producing LNG by 2020. But the company still faces more hurdles.

NextDecade, whose sole project is Rio Grande LNG, announced earlier this month that it was pushing its final investment decision on the project to June 15 this year. NextDecade also faces another review from FERC, after a judge ruled that the agency did not conduct an adequate review of the LNG project’s impacts on the climate and neighboring populations.

Local opposition continues from the neighboring communities of South Padre Island, Port Isabel, Long Island Village and Laguna Vista, which have all passed anti-LNG resolutions in the last few years. Vecinos para el Bienestar de Comunidad Costera, consisting of Port Isabel and neighboring Laguna Heights residents, are also against the project’s construction.

NextDecade did not respond to TPR’s request for comment.