Tribes, enviros sue Corps over Texas oil terminal expansion permit

The sun is seen behind a crude oil pump jack in the Permian Basin in Loving County, Texas. REUTERS/Angus Mordant
  • Absence of environmental impact statement violated NEPA
  • Insufficient study of alternatives for waters tribes consider sacred
  • Expansion project is for country's "largest export terminal" by volume

(Reuters) - Native tribes and environmental groups have sued the Army Corps of Engineers in Corpus Christi, Texas federal court over its issuance of a permit to Moda Midstream, alleging that it issued the permit for the expansion of oil-export marine terminal without adequately studying the project's effects on seagrass and wetlands.

In a Tuesday complaint, the Indigenous Peoples of the Coastal Bend and others accused the Corps of violating the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Clean Water Act (CWA) with a CWA permit that would allow Moda to dredge about 3.9 million cubic yards of material out of the Corpus Christi Bay.

"One of my main concerns as a fisherman and birder is that the MODA expansion will destroy many acres of life-sustaining seagrasses," said Patrick Nye, the president of co-plaintiff group the Ingleside on the Bay Coastal Watch Association in a statement. if comment from green then

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

The Corps did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Steven Davidson, a Moda spokesperson, said "We are confident the nearly year-and-a-half application review process was comprehensive and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit was properly issued."

The Houston-based company had been considering expanding its Ingleside Oil Terminal, which connects Permian and Eagle Ford crude oil production to international markets, as early as 2017.

Construction on the project has not begun, Davidson said.

The complaint says that the expansion of "the largest export terminal in the United States by volume" would add five berths for oil tankers and barges, with the effect of doubling its vessel capacity.

The plaintiffs, represented by Lauren Ice of Perales, Allmon & Ice, argue that the Corps violated NEPA because, although its environmental review of the project notes that seagrasses and wetlands will be impacted, it does not study that impact with the type of in-depth report NEPA mandates for major federal actions, so-called environmental impact statements.

The Corps concluded that the project is not a major federal action because it improves an existing site, the complaint says.

Moda has said that the expansion would impact nearly 10 acres of seagrass and estuarine wetlands. Estuarine wetlands are a type of wetland located where freshwater meets saltwater.

The plaintiffs also accuse the Corps of not studying enough alternatives to the project.

The current expansion project would be built on land and near waters the tribal plaintiffs consider sacred, including in an area where tens of thousands of Native American artifacts like pottery fragments have been found, the complaint says.

The case is Indigenous Peoples of the Coastal Bend et al v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers et al, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, No. 2:21-cv-00161.

For Indigenous Peoples of the Coastal Bend et al: Lauren Ice of Perales, Allmon & Ice

Read more:

Moda Midstream enhances energy center in Texas to allow docking of large vessels

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Thomson Reuters

New York-based correspondent covering environmental, climate and energy litigation.