South Texas Environmental News Update

Hillcrest, Texas, a predominantly black town at the foot of the Corpus Christi ship channel is surrounded by refineries, including Citgo, which releases more cancer-causing benzene than 90% of all 27 refineries in Texas according to the EPA. But Hillcrest has a new threat, a 575-foot-tall bridge that the Texas Department of Highways approved despite its enormity, its price tag, its 7 years of construction and its landing in the heart of Hillcrest. The trade out: the port with the billion-dollar bridge can now handle the world’s largest tankers to shuttle crude oil in and out maximizing profits while displacing people of color.

A bridge support pile for the Corpus Christi Harbor Bridge beside Interstate 37 in Corpus Christi, Texas, U.S., on Friday, April 2, 2021. Republicans may be ready to support limited infrastructure funding in President Biden’s spending proposal, which would require scaling back the $2.25 trillion plan by more than two thirds, a senior GOP senator said. Photographer: Eddie Seal/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sean Strawbridge, Corpus Christi port director, and the highest paid state employee in Texas at $600,000 a year, calls the bridge monumental, while environmental advocates call it a racist highway, and a climate change bomb. Dallas-based Exxon-Mobil senior lobbyist Keith McCoy, told an undercover reporter with Greenpeace, during a Zoom meeting, that President Joe Biden’s plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions was “insane.” He acknowledged that the oil giant fought climate science for years through the use of shadow groups to protect its income stream. The Exxon executive also said that he talks weekly with West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin to get rid of the “negative stuff” including reduced emissions and taxes on oil companies in Biden’s climate action plan. Manchin, a Democrat, who often walks on the Republican side of issues, sometimes holds the tie-breaking vote in the Senate, and many believe his pro-fossil fuel stance forced the Biden infrastructure planners last week to pull back billions of dollars on climate initiatives. Another Exxon lobbyist, during the interview laughed when asked how many victories the giant won during the four years of Trump, saying, “The wins are such that it would be difficult to categorize them all.” He added that the Trump corporate tax break was worth billions to the giant. Exxon CEO Darren Woods, held a news conference later suggesting such seditious thoughts are not part of the inner Exxon world. Meantime, the bizarre heatwave in late June that killed nearly five hundred people in the Pacific Northwest where temperatures reached over a 120 degrees in British Colombia has triggered concerns among scientists that a fast-approaching climate tipping point is near.

Bee populations are dropping in West Texas according to a report from KOSA News. Scott Wasserman, of Wasserman Ranch, near Alpine, told the news service that fewer bee swarms are propagating and any plant that requires pollination is “going to be negatively impacted because there is just not as many bees as there were this time last year.” Many scientists are calling present times a mass extinction event, with one million species worldwide endangered. The planet is weekly losing two species forever. The problem of loss of bio diversity entered the G-7 conference last month in England where the phenomena was seen as bad for business, especially agriculture and Ag banks. The top three Texas Ag Banks loaned ranchers and farmers 1.5 billion dollars in 2019. The G-7 finance ministers approved a Taskforce on nature related financial investments, requiring banks to disclose whether their loans are nature-positive or nature-negative including how the investment affects water quality, temperature, and pollination. One third of our food worldwide depends on pollination. A 2020 University of Maryland survey stated that beekeepers in the USA lost 43% of their honey bees between April 2019 and April 2020. It was the second highest decline since the researchers began observing in 2006. The drop in pollinator populations worldwide has been blamed on disease, parasites and the use of insecticides including the partially EPA banned family of chemicals known as nicotinoids, developed by Shell Oil in the 1980’s

FILE PHOTO: Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador delivers a speech on the third anniversary of his presidential election victory at National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico July 1, 2021. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

Houston-based Talos Energy is out of the playing for production of the highly sought ZAPA oil field in Mexico. According to BN Americas, Pemex, the state oil company, was awarded the contract this week, as the new Andres Manuel Lopez Obredor administration is reversing the prior administration’s invitation to US Oil companies to develop fossil fuels. In 1939, Mexican President Lazaro Cardenas nationalized the country’s oil and gas industry, after foreign oil companies refused to accept union workers demand for a 40-hour work week and paid sick leave. PEMEX’s monopoly on oil lasted until Enrique Pena Nieto’s presidency began in 2012. Unlike the US, Mexico’s constitution of 1917, gave the state all rights to underground minerals. President Obredor, also known as AMLO, campaigned on a Mexico first, no-fracking ticket. He won 53% of the popular vote against three other candidates and has nearly four years remaining in his term.