Shrimper Diane Wilson brings fight to protect Matagorda Bay to Max Midstream’s doorstep

Houston, TX — After 36 days of fasting, with 24 hours in County Jail for civil disobedience at the Galveston Army Corps Office, and a lifetime of tireless work to protect Matagorda Bay from polluting industries, Diane Wilson lead supporters in protest of the proposed Sea Hawk oil export terminal in front of the Max Midstream headquarters Thursday morning.

“Max Midstream’s scheme to make a profit at the expense of our beleaguered bay and our struggling local, multiracial fishermen is a crime against humanity and this planet,” Diane Wilson said. “ Their scheme is climate-dealing death!”

The group theatrically costumed as fish, shrimp, turtles, and Max Midstream executives to call attention to the dangers of dredging the 26 mile channel in the Matagorda Bay, which would likely stir-up buried poison from the Alcoa Mercury Superfund site to enable Suezmax tankers to load crude oil for export.

“Deep dredging the Matagorda Ship Channel for the Seahawk oil export terminal will put the livelihoods of the commercial fisherfolk in peril,” said Mauricio Blanco Pachuca, a longtime Lavaca Bay commercial shrimper. “We’ve worked hard to recover from years of mercury and plastic pollution from local industries including Alcoa and Formosa, and now Max Midstream wants to undermine all that for their own profit.”

Max Midstream, led by CEO Todd Edwards and Director Azad Cola, is a startup company incorporated in 2019 with no prior experience in oil and gas export terminal construction.

Diane Wilson questions Edwards’ ability to construct and manage an international export facility in a transparent and environmentally sound way given both his lack of experience in oil and gas and his history of legal and financial problems. In 2017, American Express Bank was forced to file a lawsuit against Edwards and his company Stonehenge Real Estate Investment Company LLC to collect unpaid debt.

Dressed as a Max Midstream corporate caricature, hands covered in black oil, Jeffery Jacoby, Deputy Director of Texas Campaign for the Environment, said, “We stand with Diane Wilson and the local fishing community that get their hands dirty on the bay everyday rather than the wealthy executives of Max Midstream.”

The project received an extra financial boost under Trump’s watch when in January 2020, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act and set aside $140,156,000 for the $220,656,00 dredging project incentivizing the Port of Calhoun and USACE to fast track the dredging without proper evaluation of potential health and environmental impacts of unearthing buried mercury from the Alcoa Mercury Superfund site. The site is currently in a clean-up process called “monitored natural attenuation,” in which sediment is allowed to accumulate and bury the toxic metal over years.

For decades, Diane Wilson has been one of the strongest advocates of protecting the Matagorda Bay from polluters including Dow Chemical, Alcoa, and Formosa Plastics. In 2019 she won a $50 million lawsuit against Formosa and formed the Matagorda Bay Mitigation Trust and the Matagorda Bay Fishing Cooperative in collaboration with conservationists and fisherfolk to restore and protect the bay ecosystem, revitalize the nearly decimated local seafood industry, and mitigate Formosa’s plastics pollution and the cumulative effects of other industrial wastes.

Despite requests from the Southern Federation of Cooperatives, who have partnered with Wilson and Matagorda Bay Mitigation Trust to develop a sustainable fishing cooperative, and a formal letter to the Biden Administration, signed by 81 fishing communities, environmental and human rights organizations, urging the President to revoke the dredging authorization, the US Army Corps continues to proceed developing the project.

The Max Midstream project is part of the race amongst oil and gas companies to build nearly 30 oil and gas export terminals along the Gulf Coast spurred by the lifting of the oil export ban in 2015 coupled with massive shale deposit discoveries in the Permian Basin of west Texas and southeast New Mexico, one of the most polluted areas in the country. The continued extraction and burning of fossil fuels from the Permian through 2050 has the potential to unleash 42 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, along with massive quantities of  carcinogenic VOCs, into the atmosphere, causing global climate impacts of tremendous magnitude.

“President Biden must take swift climate action to halt the harm of the reckless fossil fuel industry racing to exploit and profit from America’s natural resources and environmental justice communities,” said Lori Glover, Earthworks Permian Energy Campaigner. “Close to 30 oil and gas export projects are planned for low-income, minority communities along the Gulf Coast posing a serious threat to public health and environmental integrity of a region already suffering from cancer clusters, ozone non-attainment, and marine dead zones and potentially making Biden’s climate goals impossible to reach.”

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