Roving Reporter | "Portland Citizens United vs. Exxon-Saudi Arabia" Article and Photos by Jeanette Larson

Hearing about the Exxon-Saudi plant plans
Errol Summerlin, a retired attorney and member of Portland Citizens United, spoke to the Aransas County Democrats Club at their monthly meeting on June 22, 2017. Mr. Summerlin summarized the course that led up to the groups' petition to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) asking that they reject applications filed in April 2017 by Gulf Coast Growth Ventures. Gulf Coast Growth Ventures is working with Exxon and Saudi Basic Industries to build a plant near Portland and Gregory. Summerlin pointed out that the application, which runs 209 pages, asks for approval to emit over 1300 tons of carbon monoxide and additional tonnage of other pollutants and "volatile organic compounds." According to Summerlin, the plant would emit more than 6 million tons of greenhouse gases annually. Additionally, 70% of the company will be owned by the Saudi Arabian government.

Errol Summerlin
While the two square-mile piece of property is some distance from Rockport and the Rockport/Fulton airshed, Summerlin noted that the pollutants can travel up to 25 miles or farther, especially when the winds come from the south-west. These would then blow into the Rockport area. Wind direction models show that pollution will be the worst from September through March. The plant would also be too close to schools and homes and there is not enough water locally to support the plant. The plant's primary output would be polyethylene pellets that would be shipped to China to be manufactured into strips for six-packs of drinks. The other product would be Monoethylene Glycol, an ingredient in anti-freeze, which would be piped across Highway 181, either underground or overhead.

Increases in greenhouse gasses could also mean that vehicle owners in San Patricio County and other areas would pay more for vehicle registration and inspections. Currently the Corpus Christi area experiences no major ozone days but Summerlin noted that there are only two official monitors in San Patricio County. Unofficial monitors show days that exceed air quality standards.

Richard Rock asks a question
The bottom line, according to Summerlin, is that people should file comments with TECQ expressing their concern for ourselves, but especially for our neighbors in Portland and Gregory. He recommends asking that if the plant is built it be required to have the maximum available scrubbers to clean out the pollutants. Exxon has said they would use the "best available" but, in fact, according to Summerlin, that generally translates into using the most economically feasible technology, resulting in more pollution released into the air. Summerlin explained during the meeting that The Sierra Club has also requested public hearings on the matter to be held in the Coastal Bend.

Petitions and other information on the issues are available on the group's website, According to Summerlin, the primary reason for selecting the area is tax abatement from Portland and the Portland-Gregory school district.


Jeanette Larson is a retired librarian and author. She and her husband, retired architect and artist Jim Larson, moved to Rockport several years ago for the birds, the beach, and the coastal community.

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