Thursday morning, about twelve Save RGV from LNG community members gathered outside the Port Isabel Events and Cultural Center as early as 7:30 am to wave “No LNG in the RGV” signs at passing cars and strolling pedestrians. They also handed out facts sheets about the potential safety and health hazards of LNG, provided on update on community organizing efforts, and gave residents “No LNG” lawn signs.
Inside the center, representatives from all three LNG companies: Texas LNG, Annova LNG, and NextDecade/Rio Grande LNG were hosting a not-so-public forum in partnership with the South Padre Island and Port Isabel Chambers of Commerce.
The chambers' over-the-top support for LNG comes even as every Lower Laguna Madre community has passed an official resolution opposing the proposed projects: South Padre Island, Laguna Vista, Port Isabel, Long Island Village, and a community group in Laguna Heights. In addition to taking a firm stance against the communities they serve, the two chambers of commerce have deliberately acted against the interests of the local businesses they supposedly represent by providing and actively publicizing support for an industry that will likely do harm to the beach tourism, eco-tourism and fishing industries.
The flyer for the event required attendees to email their questions for the LNG reps to the chambers seven days in advance and gave no indication whether the questions would be asked by the moderator. They also included a mandatory RSVP to attend, which did not prevent a few of a plainly dressed group members from attending the forum and taking notes and grabbing silly tote bags with LNG beer coozies.
By 8 AM, a for-hire security guard for the forum approached us and told us that we “cannot stand on the public sidewalk directly in front of the event center” because it is “part of the property of the event center and the center is currently being rented.” This meant that the renters did not want to allow five residents holding signs behind a table to stand on their temporarily rented and obviously public sidewalk. The security guard then had us move just 10 feet over to the sidewalk owned by the museum and gift shop.
The same guard also stood directly in front of the entrance the remaining 2 hours we held signs and even prevented myself and Walter Birdwell from entering the building to use the bathroom, stating that “the building is being entirely rented, including the bathrooms.” Fortunately, many nearby coffee shops and restaurants visibly support Save RGV from LNG and allowed us to use their bathrooms free-of-charge.
Long Island Village resident Flora Gunderson was able to attend the forum, and felt that “LNG is something else that’s going to be forced on us--and protest is the only way we can accomplish anything.”