What Does The New Harbor Island Crude Carrier Terminal Really Bring To The Table For Corpus Christi?

Matt Briscoe
The Southside Light  

Corpus Christi, Texas--When you don’t want something in your backyard but other people do, what do you do? You come up with every reason as to why it should not be there and you grasp at straws for people or groups to support you in your efforts. But the reality is that while everything is the way that is seems, nothing is the way that it seems. With the new project that is going in out near the entrance to the Corpus Christi ship channel, it seems that we have a case of exactly that--and the reality is in the middle.

Recently, The Southside Light sat down and spoke with Jeremiah Ashcroft, CEO of Lone Star Ports and Ferris Hussein, Managing Director, Carlyle Group, the asset management company behind the project.

“There is a lot of information out there and we will do a better job at disseminating information to the public,” Hussein said. “We want people to know all of the facts about this project.”

The facts are different depending on who you ask and where you live. A recent Southside Light poll was emailed to some 40,000 area residents. 18,368 of those surveys returned showed that some 53% of those surveyed are in favor of the project and the jobs that it will bring. 35% of those 18,368 who responded to the survey said that they were against it due to environmental concerns, while 11% were undecided on the issue. Those who were against the project cited environmental concerns about the project. Those in favor, felt that the project is necessary for the future growth of the area as exports continue to increase.

(Matt Briscoe, The Southside Light)

The project, would allow the state’s record oil production to be sent around the world and that means huge economic benefits for the entire Corpus Christi region. Nobody could argue that the project is vital to Corpus Christi becoming a leader in the global export community. Commodity analysts say that Corpus Christi’s location is perfect due to its location to the oil rich Permian Basin and the nearby Eagle Ford Shale. Those same experts say that Corpus Christi is very well strategically positioned to handle the growing volume from not only Texas but from around the country.

“A large percentage of crude oil exports over the next several years will leave from right here out of the Port of Corpus Christi,” says Jeremiah Ashcroft. “Corpus Christi will certainly benefit from this project.”

(Matt Briscoe, The Southside Light) 

Lone Star Ports often points to research obtained in a study by the Perryman Group which says that the construction and operation of the Harbor Island Export Terminal will lead to more than 300 permanent jobs in the Corpus Christi. Independent economists and researchers say that those numbers certainly sound reasonable considering a growth project of this size.

But with growth comes opposition and that opposition is generally coming from the usual places like those who live near where the project will go in and environmental action groups who oppose almost everything that the oil industry does. But the fact is that most experts agree that an unmanned buoy system is not the answer.

“If an accident happened offshore with an unmanned buoy, the end result could be disastrous because you do not have the resources in place to respond quickly,” says Ashcroft. “Here you have all of the resources in place to quickly respond to an emergency if there was one.”

And when it comes to operating the facility, both Ashcroft and Hussein point to a fact that a large percentage of the energy used to operate the facility will be renewable energy.

“We are working with AEP and our contractors to make sure that this facility is environmentally sound all the way around,” Ashcroft noted.

Mr. Ashcroft also points to how the sand from the dredging project is also being repurposed for use on area beaches that were deeply damaged by Hurricane Harvey.

“We want people to know that we are doing everything we can to make this an easy transition for the community,” Mr. Ashcroft said.

But some in the community, good is not good enough--nor does it seem that it ever will be. Environmental groups and some citizens (many of which The Light has discovered through our investigation has close ties to Trafigura, the Swiss based global commodity trading firm that is squarely behind the offshore buoy proposal) are just not going to buy into the proposal that could benefit the region in the long run.

The Light reached out to several of those groups to question their stance. Our requests have still gone unanswered.

The groups that stand firmly against the project have produced interesting videos that are seemingly convincing. They go as far as accusing Lone Star Ports and Carlyle of having a beautiful public relations package that is very convincing. However, the same could be said for them and their propaganda packages that are easily found online and circulating through social media.

“I am really happy to Corpus Christi and Port Aransas get this kind of growth going,” said Melissa Ecklemann who frequently visits the area from San Antonio. “I get the impression that many of the folks who live here suffer from that small town, small mind state of mind and that is just too sad.”

Ecklemann and her husband travel to the area at least once a month and she says that having a VLCC dock nearby will not stop them from spending their time and money in the area.

“Where people go to play and have fun will likely be just fine,” Ecklemann says. In fact, she and other visitors see the value in expansion.

People like Rich Strauss, who like Ecklemann and her family drive to the Corpus Christi area several times each year from Kerrville. “Man, this is great! I love to see these kind of things happen in places like this. It does so much for the community,” Strauss says.

Strauss points out to how he has seen places like San Antonio grow and thrive through solid partnerships with the business community.

“Look at what San Antonio did with Toyota, Kelly USA and other projects,” Strauss says. “It has been a real win-win and the support that these businesses bring to the communities around them is such a massive benefit”

Strauss points out that he is glad to see the Corpus Christi area start to embrace a growth culture even amid the complaints from a small group of residents.

“It happened in San Antonio. People complained until they saw how business and the community can work together really support each other through being solid partners,” Mr. Strauss said.

“We want to be a good community partner,” says Mr. Hussein. But for some, being a good community partner is being out of sight and out of mind--which for them, doesn’t look likely.


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