Election Forum (copy)

Melanie Oldham, then running for Freeport City Council, addresses the public Saturday at the Concerned Citizens of Freeport candidates forum at First United Methodist Church in Freeport. The environmental activist recently joined a group lobbying federal officials against a proposed offshore oil terminal.

FREEPORT — In the grand tradition of petitioning grievances to the federal government, a Freeport resident flew to Washington, D.C., in order to voice opposition to a proposed offshore oil terminal.

The Sea Port Oil Terminal project, which would place a pipeline through the village of Surfside Beach to reach an export terminal in the Gulf of Mexico, has moved through an approval process for a few years now and is still being debated in the area. Surfside’s City Council recently put together a group to arrange a community meeting on the matter after last holding one in 2019.

With the Department of Transportation having some final say in the matter, Melanie Oldham went to the capital to present Secretary Pete Buttigieg with a letter asking to put a stop to the project.

“A bunch of us met at the US Department of Transportation. Mr. Buttigieg was traveling, but they had one of his staff come out and I presented a letter from our group, Citizens for Clean Air and Clean Water, about why we oppose the SPOT project,” Oldham said. “I handed it to Buttigieg’s staff and then we had a little press conference.”

The Appalachian Pipeline Resistance Movement, which also had members present, invited some of what they called the Texas Gulf Coast community leaders to come and speak, she said.

Oldham is a physical therapist by trade and a founding member of Citizens for Clean Air and Clean Water of Freeport and Brazoria County. The group organized in 2008 to stave off the development of a different project by the Gulf Chemical and Metallurgical Corp.

Oldham said the trip was taken on short notice and required her to take time off work. After completing a brief training on “how to lobby at the capital,” she was on her way. She left Sept. 7 and returned two days later.

“We were in groups of community people or indigenous folks,” Oldham said.

Once there, they went to speak out against SPOT. They also opposed the permitting bill that resulted from negotiations with West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin in exchange for his support of what was deemed the Inflation Reduction Act.

“I even got to go talk to our congressman Randy Weber’s staff. He wasn’t in the office, but we did talk to his staff about it,” Oldham said.

The meeting with Weber’s staff lasted until the late afternoon. Afterward, they left to join about 600 people at the rally, she said.

One of the other Texans who came was John Beard of Port Arthur, founder of the Port Arthur Community Action Network, which presents similar goals as her group, Oldham said. Beard also participated in the press conference. Houston, Corpus Christi and Brownsville residents also attended. Other people represented areas such as North Carolina, Louisiana and Virginia.

Oldham said she was not in Washington to just bash industry and corporations, despite her and Citizens for Clean Air’s objection to the SPOT project.

“We’re not anti-industry. We know industry provides a lot of good jobs and other things for us, but we just want them to be good neighbors and do it right,” she said. “Surprisingly there are Democratic and Republican legislators that are all of a sudden speaking up and not totally behind this Manchin permitting bill, so we see hope that they’re hearing us and listening.”

Kent Holle is a reporter for The Facts. Contact him at 979-237-0154.

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