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German lawmaker tours liquefied natural gas sites on Gulf Coast, opposes expansion

German Parliament member Kathrin Hennenberger speaks out against the development of liquified natural gas export terminals in Oakville Missionary Baptist Church in Belle Chasse, La. on July 18, 2023.
Carlyle Calhoun
/
WWNO
German Parliament member Kathrin Hennenberger speaks out against the development of liquified natural gas export terminals in Oakville Missionary Baptist Church in Belle Chasse, La. on July 18, 2023.

For the next week, a German lawmaker — who has opposed the liquefied natural gas movement in her own country — is traveling from southeast Louisiana to Texas to witness the Gulf Coast’s massive buildout. After her first stop in Plaquemines Parish, German Parliament member Kathrin Henneberger said she’s worried the Gulf Coast terminals aren’t being built safely.

The buildout in her own country was spurred in part when a crisis struck. Germany’s desire to get off Russian gas with the start of the Ukraine War sent fossil fuel companies, ramping up proposals to export U.S. natural gas to Europe to fill the gap left by Russia.

Now, more than 20 gas export terminals are either under construction or proposed on the Gulf Coast — and 13 of those are slated for Louisiana. If every terminal was built, it would quadruple the number of export facilities already existing in the U.S.

To kick off her tour, Henneberger traveled to Venture Global’s $21 billion Plaquemines LNGplant that’s currently under construction near West Pointe-a-la-Hache on Plaquemines Parish’s west bank, almost an hour south of New Orleans. The German Green Party politician joined a local pastor and environmental activist with the Sunrise Movement.

A graphic rendering of Venture Global's planned Plaquemines LNG facility, under construction on Plaquemines Parish's west bank south of the Myrtle Grove community.
Venture Global LNG, LLC
A graphic rendering of Venture Global's planned Plaquemines LNG facility, under construction on Plaquemines Parish's west bank south of the Myrtle Grove community.

After visiting the 632-acre site, Henneberger said she felt the terminal was built in a “danger zone.” Beyond a levee bordering the construction site, the area has little buffer from storm surge aside from a short stretch of broken wetlands degraded amid the state’s ongoing land loss.

“Because of the climate crisis, every year the storms are getting stronger. So it's not a safe place to build a refinery and an energy terminal like this,” Henneberger said during a press conference in Oakville Baptist Church.

She said she worried for the safety of the surrounding residents and the little wetlands that remain. A 2022 reportissued by the Sierra Club suggested that if the plant had existed when Hurricane Ida passed through in 2021, 26-foot-high levees planned by the company might have been overtopped, potentially allowing chemicals used on site to enter neighboring waters and communities.

She called on her own country, who has helped bankroll the gas plant, to think about the effect this new fossil fuel infrastructure could have on the people living near them. She said she feels a personal responsibility for the local impacts of the international gas trade.

“This is why I'm also here to learn more about it. So that I can speak up in Germany about the topic and demand that especially the German companies should not do these long-term contracts and should not invest in fossil fuel infrastructure like energy terminals in Louisiana,” Henneberger said. She belongs to the Greens, Germany’s environmental political party, now the third largest group in the German Bundestag.

The export terminal has faced little resistance from Plaquemines Parish and Louisiana officials. If completed, the LNG plant would export up to 20 million metric tons of natural gas per year by ship to other countries, including Germany where they’re considering new import facilities to accept the gas. Plaquemines LNG is also expected to create 250 local jobs, according to the company.

Agreements with two German energy companies – EnBWand Securing Energy for Europe – mean Venture Global is on pace to become the country’s largest supplier of liquefied natural gas. Both German companies have signed onto 20-year contracts with Venture Global, helping the natural gas supplier secure all the financing needed to complete the project.

Oakville Baptist Church Pastor Wilfred Johnson thanked Henneberger for her visit, asking her not to forget about them when she returns to Germany at the end of the week.

“This facility is designed to make life difficult in this parish,” Johnson said. “In my business, everything is not done by just praying. If something is against people, then we have to watch, fight and pray, and it's fighting time now.”

Venture Global did not respond to a request for comment in time for publishing.

Henneberger is slated to continue her tour in New Orleans before heading to Lake Charles, Cameron Parish and east Texas.

Halle Parker reports on the environment for WWNO's Coastal Desk. You can reach her at hparker@wwno.org.

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