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First meeting with Global Infrastructure Partners on controversial Rio Grande LNG

The first meeting occurs between PESP, South Texas community members and Global Infrastructure Partners on the controversial Rio Grande LNG terminal.

June 27, 2024

In a groundbreaking development, the Private Equity Stakeholder Project (PESP), with members of the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe and South Texas Environmental Justice Network, convened an in-person meeting with private equity firm Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) to discuss the firm’s backing of the contentious Rio Grande LNG terminal project in South Texas. This meeting marks a significant milestone in ongoing efforts to address environmental, indigenous rights, community concerns, and financial risks associated with the LNG terminal.

Summary of the Meeting: The meeting, held on Tuesday, June 25, brought together representatives from PESP, members of the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe, and South Texas Environmental Justice Network. The primary goal was to secure a commitment from GIP to cancel the Rio Grande LNG project due to its impact on indigenous rights and severe environmental impacts. Key issues highlighted during the discussion included:

  • Indigenous Rights Violations: Emphasis was placed on the need for GIP to recognize the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe as the first people of the region. Although they are not yet a federally recognized tribe, the Carrizo Comecrudo are the original people of the Rio Grande Valley and should not be excluded from consultation processes.
  • Sacred Sites and Archeological Concerns: The Rio Grande LNG terminal is set to be constructed on sacred land, home to significant archeological artifacts.
  • Environmental, Health, and Economic Impacts: The project poses substantial threats to the local environment, public health, and the economy, exacerbating community opposition.
  • Call for True Consultation: PESP stressed the need for ongoing and genuine consultation with the tribe, as defined by the United Nations, clarifying that consultation does not equate to consent. Free Prior and Informed Consent must be implemented as defined by the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Rights.
  • Investment Decisions and Ethical Considerations: GIP’s investment decisions, policies, and procedures were scrutinized, especially in light of the firm’s commitment to numerous UN compacts such as the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment. PESP questioned GIP’s advertised leadership in renewable energy assets against the backdrop of its significant investment in a fossil fuel project.
  • Financial Risk: PESP outlined the financial risks associated with LNG investments, including project global oversupply and an uncertain regulatory environment.

Despite the compelling arguments and urgent pleas from the tribe, community members, and PESP, GIP refused to commit to canceling the Rio Grande LNG terminal during the meeting, further frustrating those who have long opposed the project.

“Global Infrastructure Partners must stop the Rio Grande LNG project because it threatens our Tribe’s sacred lands and harms our community’s health,” stated Juan Mancias, Chairman of the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas. “Our lands are being destroyed by Rio Grande LNG’s land-clearing operations and the broader impact of increasing fossil fuel activities. As both a great-grandfather and the chairman of the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe, I am committed to protecting our remaining sacred lands for future generations. We urge Global Infrastructure Partners to avoid complicity in this destruction.”

“Constructing the Rio Grande LNG would devastate our low-income, Latino community’s way of life,” said Bekah Hinojosa with South Texas Environmental Justice Network. “Pollution from these massive LNG export terminals would ruin the waterways for the fishing & shrimping on which our community depends to feed our families. For nearly a decade, we have challenged investors, banks, companies, and permitting agencies involved with GIP’s Rio Grande LNG, urging them to reject this hazardous gas project. We will continue to call on private equity firms like Global Infrastructure Partners to immediately stop supporting LNG terminals.”

Environmental and Economic Impact: The Rio Grande LNG terminal is estimated to emit the equivalent emissions of 44 coal power plants every year, totaling about 163 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. The construction of the terminal would significantly degrade local fishing, shrimping, and natural tourism industries, putting community livelihoods at risk. Additionally, despite the terminal being built on the sacred land of the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas, Rio Grande LNG, regulatory agencies, and banks have all failed to consult with the tribe on local impacts.

Background: This meeting followed numerous calls for GIP to engage with PESP and the South Texas community. Earlier this year, community members, alongside activists and watchdog groups, gathered at GIP’s headquarters to demand an end to the Rio Grande LNG project. They delivered a letter signed by over 90 organizations, emphasizing the community’s vehement opposition and environmental concerns. Actual wetland samples from Brownsville, Texas, where bulldozing has already commenced, were presented to underscore the immediate environmental impacts.

Global Infrastructure Partners holds a substantial $3.5 billion investment in Rio Grande LNG, owning a minimum 46% stake. The opaque business models of private equity firms like GIP often allow them to evade public scrutiny while perpetuating fossil fuel expansion. Residents of Brownsville and members of the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe are among the first to suffer from the environmental hazards posed by the terminal, including methane leaks that exacerbate global warming.

“The Rio Grande LNG project presents significant financial risks to GIP’s investors, alongside its detrimental impact on Texas communities and the environment,” said Abhilasha Bhola, PESP climate campaigner. “PESP urges GIP to halt the Rio Grande LNG project immediately. Investors play a crucial role in this effort by addressing the social, ecological, and financial concerns associated with the terminal. They should actively encourage GIP to reconsider its stance on this development, reducing their exposure to the substantial fiduciary and reputational risks involved.

“By heeding the calls of community groups and stakeholders, GIP still has the opportunity to make a responsible decision that prioritizes long-term sustainability and community well-being over short-term profits.”

Next Steps: PESP continues to ask GIP to reconsider its investment in the Rio Grande LNG project, and has invited GIP to visit the Rio Grande Valley to witness firsthand the last untouched coastline in the Texas Gulf Coast. The meeting and GIP’s response signify the continuing need for more transparent and responsible investment practices by private equity firms.

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