LNG execs claim they’re investing in America — in reality, they’re taking far more than they give – The Hill

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This month, oil and gas industry magnates will descend upon New Orleans for the industry’s annual LNG (liquefied natural gas) convention. It’s billed as an opportunity for insiders to meet with government officials foreign and domestic and as a chance for backroom deals to be struck with potential customers. 
It’s not by chance that the industry has chosen Louisiana for its highbrow hobnobbing. The state has already been saddled with several gas export terminals, concentrated in mostly vulnerable, low-lying areas and within low-income communities. If the industry’s remaining proposals receive federal approval, coastal Louisiana will be paved with well more than a dozen facilities. Before the convention begins, let’s look at the industry’s track record in the state and its plans for the future.  
Prior to 2016 and the fracking boom, the U.S. was not a major exporter of gas. Since then, however, the industry has targeted Louisiana and, to a lesser extent, other Gulf Coast states to site their export terminals. Each of these terminals can consume hundreds of acres of fragile coastal wetlands. All of them pull billions of cubic feet of methane and other fossil gasses from pipelines, leaking and flaring methane into the atmosphere as they chill and compress the gas for export.  
And that is all they do: take the fuel out of America to sell it to the highest bidder overseas. 
In applying for permits to build even more of these terminals, the industry makes the same predictable claims. They say they are “investing” in Louisiana and “bringing jobs.” How has that worked out with the facilities they’ve already built?  
A 2018 report, titled “Louisiana Offers Fossil Fuel Exporter ‘Single Largest’ Local Tax Giveaway in American History,” found that the state of Louisiana had given a tax break for a single terminal that amounted to between $1.4 billion and $2.4 billion in lost revenues. Since then, the industry has continued to take state and local tax breaks. Less than six months ago, the Louisiana Board of Commerce and industry greenlighted more than $187 million in tax exemptions for gas export terminals. Again, almost all went to one facility.  
These breaks come from the lucrative ITEP, or Industrial Tax Exemption Program. According to the Louisiana Illuminator, the ITEP “gives large manufacturers exemptions on their property taxes, a primary source of revenue for local governments to pay for public schools, law enforcement, roads and other community services.” 
If fossil fuel companies like gas exporters are reaping the benefits of tax breaks at such a substantial cost to local government coffers, they must be giving other benefits to the broader community, right?  
Not according to the record.  
Just several weeks ago, The Lens NOLA reported that some terminals will employ only a few hundred people while in operation. In the same report, it was also revealed that companies are using prefabricated components to build new terminals, avoiding hiring local contractors for construction. Why are state and parish governments exempting from tax an industry that’s not trying to create more jobs? 
Now let’s consider the national and global benefits the industry claims it provides by exporting gas from Louisiana. The most famous example is that American gas can save Europe from its dependence on Russian imports. But a recent report by Symons Public Affairs found that U.S. exporters are already meeting European energy demands without building additional facilities. That same report showed that if the industry were to have all of its proposed projects approved by federal regulators, the resulting greenhouse gas emissions would be greater than those of the entire European Union.  
That the industry doesn’t have the best interests of our climate or our finances at heart is no surprise to the people who live near its facilities. Pollution, flaring, wetland erosion and the destruction of fisheries near gas export terminals have not only caused widely reported health problems among local residents, they have caused area fishers and shrimpers to close up shop or flee their homes. Cameron Parish alone, once the epicenter of America’s seafood industry, now resembles a ghost town rather than a hub for local jobs. 
All of us — citizens and policymakers alike — need to be honest with ourselves about gas exporters and the broader fossil fuel industry. They are not here to invest in America. They are here to extract natural resources, turn a profit, and leave taxpayers to pay the price. As one of the poorest states in the country and one of the most vulnerable to climate change, it’s a bill we just can’t afford. 
Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré (Ret.) led Joint Task Force Katrina in New Orleans following the devastating Category 5 hurricane. He is head of The Green Army, an organization dedicated to finding solutions to pollution.
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