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Air quality permit meeting yields comments, protester ejections

Posted at 10:33 PM, Sep 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-17 07:54:38-04

PORTLAND, Tx. — Chanting "people over profits," Portland Police officers escorted a group of around 15 protesters out of a public meeting over a request for an air-quality permit for a proposed ship terminal in conjunction with the huge plastics factory under construction right now.

"We're concerned about the building of the largest single-use plastics plant in the entire world," protester Isabel Araiza said. "What it means for our quality of life, the quality of the environment."

She wasn't exaggerating. When the plant gets up and running in 2022 it will be the largest of its kind worldwide. Gulf Coast Growth Ventures, a partnership between Exxon and a Saudi Arabian company, is behind the massive project that promises 600 high paying jobs.

"We've got really a great project here," GCGV site manager Paul Fritsch said.

Fritsch was among the panelists answering questions about the plant at Monday night's meeting. The plant itself obtained its air-quality permit in June and broke ground last week. But the plant needs a ship terminal connected by a pipeline to export the liquids it produces.

"This [ship terminal] is where about half of the products from our facility will go out," Fritsch said.

The terminal also needs an air-quality permit, and protesters and other concerned citizens spoke out before the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality at Monday's meeting in hopes of the TCEQ denying that permit.

"We're just here to say that we're tired of TCEQ and our elected officials putting putting petro-plastics and profit before people," Araiza said. "We're here to basically make our voices known, and to stand up in solidarity against private interests and ask them to take into consideration the public's needs."

Fritsch touts the economic benefits he says the plant will bring to the Coastal Bend, and he says he and his crew will be good stewards of the environment.

"We put a lot of effort, and take a lot of pride, in the way we run our business," he said. "I can appreciate concerns by people who really don't understand what we do. I understand that. I can appreciate it. But really my message is that the facility that we have designed here, I've got complete confidence in the way they're designed and their ability to control the emissions."

The TCEQ will consider the public comments made at Monday's meeting and make a ruling at a later date.