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Energy company among environmental group’s ‘Terrible 12’ Gulf Coast polluters

March 8, 2023

Victoria Advocate
By Leo Bertucci
Original article

John Beard, an environmental activist from Port Arthur, speaks at a CERAWeak awards presentation in Houston on Monday. CERAWeak is a satirical program held during the CERAWeek oil and gas industry conference. Contributed by Mark Nathan

An oil and gas company operating in the Crossroads received an award, but it was not the kind of recognition a business would want to tout.

Max Midstream received the “Number Two Award” on Monday from a group of protestors who demonstrated near where an energy conference in Houston was held. Diane Wilson, a Port Lavaca environmental activist, said the award recognizes an industrial producer who treats their local community like “poop.”

Wilson nominated Max Midstream for the “Number Two Award.”

“They treat all of Calhoun County like a number two,” Wilson said.

Wilson was among a group of activists from Texas and Louisiana who spoke at CERAWeak 2023, a program mocking the CERAWeek conference taking place at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston from March 6-10. The event was organized by Save Texas, a projected created by the Texas Campaign for the Environment.

The group of environmental advocates in attendance Monday came up with a list of energy companies who they believe are some of the worst polluters along the Gulf Coast. These companies are known as the “Terrible 12.”

CERAWeek, which is put together by the American banking corporation S&P Global, is attended by oil and gas company executives and government officials. This year’s speakers include Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan and the CEOs of Shell Oil Co. and Chevron Corp.

The award ceremony for CERAWeak was held Monday at the Discovery Green, a park located outside of the convention center. Wilson said the protesters were not allowed to enter the building.

“There was a lot of networking,” Wilson said about the group who protested. “We were in solidarity with each other because we are dealing with similar issues. It’s a grassroots community.”

In a statement sent by a company spokesperson, Max Midstream CEO Johnathan Novitsky said his business has supported Calhoun County residents in various ways.

“During the last two years, Max has donated more than $85,000 to local charities, created 16 jobs for skilled workers, and invested more than $200 million into the local economy in capital projects that generate local property tax revenues in excess of $1 million annually,” Novitsky said.

Novitsky also referred to Max Midstream’s Environmental, Social and Governance plan, saying the company has offset 100% of its carbon footprint as of Tuesday.

A project to widen and deepen the Matagorda Ship Channel, which was put on hold last year when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers withdrew its environmental assessment, could benefit a ship terminal Max Midstream owns at the Port of Calhoun. The company announced in 2020 it would invest $225 million for the expansion of the ship channel.

Texas Campaign for the Environment, which runs the group behind CERAWeak, wants to shed light on what it believes to be problems with the fossil fuel export industry. Executive Director Robin Schneider said oil and gas companies are harming the global climate with their new infrastructure.

“They don’t want to hear critics, which is very disappointing,” Schneider said.

One Victoria County official has done business with Max Midstream, and he said it was a positive experience.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Danny Garcia said the oil and gas company applied concrete over a shallow pipeline which had drainage issues. The project, which took place in Bloomington in either “late 2021 or early 2022,” was something no other company had agreed to do until Max Midstream stepped in.

“They said they would have it done in a month, and they did what they said they would do,” Garcia said.

Environmental activists in Houston planned other events for the week of March 6-10, Schneider said. There was a march against fossil fuel producers and their financiers, and a “pollution watch party” — a gathering in which people viewed infrared images of air pollution that were projected onto a building.

“We have a long way to go,” Schneider said about the efforts of environmental advocates.

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