Gulf Communities Celebrate Blow to Proposed Offshore Oil Terminal and Vow to Keep Fighting

Oil company must revise air permits to reduce dangerous emissions that threaten Texas Gulf Coast communities


Alexandria Trimble, Earthjustice,

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that Bluewater Texas Terminals, LLC will revise air permits for an offshore oil terminal in Texas. This revision comes after communities in the Texas Coastal Bend, alongside regional and national groups, demanded that EPA enforce the Clean Air Act to limit dangerous pollution with legal and expert-witness comments submitted by Earthjustice and Environmental Integrity Project. Last month, EPA announced it would change its legal interpretation that would allow Bluewater to operate without pollution controls, citing these and other public comments.

Bluewater had sought air permits from EPA allowing it to be the largest emitter of volatile organic compound (VOC) pollution in the United States for an offshore oil terminal located off the coast of Corpus Christi, Texas. The terminal would load some of the largest oil tankers in the world with hundreds of millions of barrels of fracked oil per year for export. This oil would cause about two-hundred million tons per year in greenhouse gas emissions, exacerbating the climate crisis.

“We applaud the action taken by the EPA on Bluewater’s Permit,” said Errol Summerlin of Portland Citizens United and the Coastal Alliance to Protect our Environment (CAPE). “It was reprehensible that Phillips 66 and Trafigura would ask the EPA to waive any air emissions controls whatsoever on this facility, which will be upwind from coastal communities and wildlife habitat. We’ll continue to defend public health and the effort to control emissions that exacerbate climate change.”

“The EPA’s decision to reverse course and hold Bluewater to account is proof that grassroots, environmental organizing is paying off — even in the heart of oil and gas country,” said Chloe Torres, Coastal Bend resident and fossil fuel exports organizer for Texas Campaign for the Environment. “The people of the Coastal Bend, especially those of us who are poor, working class, and non-white, have for far too long paid with our health so that the fossil fuel industry could profit. We refuse to be sacrifice zones any longer and we are encouraged that the EPA stepped in to protect frontline communities.”

“Coastal Bend frontline communities are already overburdened by pollution from the oil-and-gas and petrochemical industries,” said Michael Brown, senior attorney at Earthjustice. “We will continue to push EPA to apply the laws on the books to reduce public harm, and we remain committed to fight on behalf of communities concerned about the enormous threat to the Gulf coast and climate that Bluewater still poses.”

In a 2019 draft permit decision, EPA initially granted Bluewater an exemption allowing it to build without any pollution controls. But citing the legal arguments and opposition of public commenters, on September 1, 2022, EPA reversed course. The EPA ruled that the Bluewater Texas terminal would need to reduce its toxic air pollution by about 95% in order to approve the permit. It gave Bluewater until September 30 to decide to revise its draft permits or to restart its application.

The parties who joined the letter to EPA opposing Bluewater’s exemption were the Carrizo/Comecrudo Tribe of Texas, Center for Biological Diversity, Clean Economy Coalition of Corpus Christi, Environment Texas, Earthworks, Errol Summerlin, For the Greater Good, Healthy Gulf, Indigenous People of the Coastal Bend, Ingleside on the Bay Coastal Watch Association, Islander Green Team, Public Citizen, Texas Campaign for the Environment, Sierra Club, Sierra Club – Coastal Bend, and Surfrider Foundation – Coastal Bend Chapter.

Additional Resources

About Earthjustice

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people's health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.