Public Citizen to hold public meeting on proposed LNG plant this week
The Washington D.C. based consumer advocacy organization behind a federal legal challenge against a proposed liquified natural gas plant in Port St. Joe will be returning to town later this week, where they will host a public meeting on the topic.
Tyson Slocum, the energy program director for Public Citizen, said that at the meeting, the advocacy group plans to present its position on the proposed plant as well as answer questions from the community.
Discussions surrounding the proposed plant, which would be built on St. Joe Company property off of Highway 98, stoked tensions within the community in 2022. Proponents of the project tout potential economic benefits, including increased jobs and tax base, and opponents question its environmental and cultural impacts.
These discussions largely surfaced as a result of Public Citizen’s lawsuit. It confronts a March, 2022 ruling by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which was upheld again in July, declaring Nopetro LNG LLC’s project exempt from the agency’s jurisdiction.
“Our goal here is not to stop this facility,” he said. “Our goal is simply to say that this is a major fossil fuel infrastructure development for Port St. Joe, and we believe that FERC erred in deciding that this proposed natural gas facility is not subject to FERC jurisdiction.”
Slocum and Public Citizen argue that federal regulatory practices offer a fairly large deal of transparency, which he said many residents feel is lacking.
In the last several months of last year, several locals signed their names onto Public Citizen’s lawsuit, County officials signed a letter of support for the proposed plant, and city commissioners voiced public neutrality on the subject.
But while not all parties are on the same page when it comes to Nopetro’s plan, all have expressed the need for greater public discourse on the subject.
While Public Citizen and the North Port St. Joe Project Area Coalition have been keen to remain in the public’s eye, officials from Nopetro LNG have been publicly quiet on the subject, with many of the known details about the project coming from their petition to FERC.
But some county officials familiar with this process have expressed that this might not be all that unusual.
County Administrator Michael Hammond said “We could tell you, this is the one aspect of government that does not fall under sunshine laws. These businesses are entitled to their privacy until they actually start applying for permits.”
“We have a habit of shooting these things down before they’re even really off the ground,” Hammond told the Star. “These companies come in, and they end up losing interest before they even actually apply for anything… I just want us to be able to actually consider this project, with public hearings and town hall meetings and all of that.”
The county’s Economic Development Director Jim McKnight, who helped to facilitate a meeting between the local officials and Nopetro LNG in October of last year, said that from what he has heard of the project so far, he feels it would be beneficial to the local area.
“I’ve liked what I’ve heard, but we still have a lot of homework to do,” said McKnight. “And there’s still a lot of things that need to get done on their end.”
Public Citizen’s meetings in Port St. Joe will be held on two dates.
The first will be held on Saturday, Jan. 14 at 1 p.m. EST at the Centennial Building, located at 300 Allen Memorial Way in Port St. Joe. Refreshments will be provided by the Gulf COunty Democrats.
A second meeting, which was scheduled to be held on Sunday, Jan. 15 at the Windmark Village Center Town Hall, was canceled after the St. Joe Company, who facilitates the WindMark community, told organizers the space could not be used for that purpose.
Slocum said he hopes that the meeting will help “facilitate a discourse” about the project within the community.
The Star has been unable to speak to Nopetro LNG after several months of interview requests.