Texas oil export terminal plans stall over lease dispute
The Port of Corpus Christi's plans for a new oil export terminal have stalled after a former port commissioner sought to have the project blocked over concerns that negotiations were being kept from public view.
The 13th Court of Appeals issued an injunction on Tuesday, halting port officials from voting on a multibillion-dollar lease for the proposed terminal at Harbor Island near Port Aransas, the Corpus Christi Caller Times reported.
Port officials in Corpus Christi and Washington-based private equity firm The Carlyle Group announced plans for the terminal project in October as a way to attract so-called very large crude carriers bound for international markets.
Port officials were set to vote this week on a 50-year lease with Lone Star Ports LLC, a joint venture between The Carlyle Group and Berry Lone Star Ports LLC. The project would've brought the port between $2 billion and $4 billion in new revenue over the term of the lease, port officials said.
The lease agreement would allow the construction of a terminal for loading and unloading petroleum and petroleum products, a petroleum storage facility and two new docks, according to port documents.
But Kenneth Berry, a former port commissioner, sought to stop the port from approving the lease, saying port officials violated the state's open meetings law by negotiating the agreement in private.
Port officials denied any wrongdoing. Their attorneys said Berry is using litigation to gain a "professional advantage."
They claimed in a motion for the appeals court to reconsider its decision that Berry is looking to develop a competing oil terminal project and trying to "derail the lease approval by any means possible."
The port's attorneys also argued that Berry could still challenge the open meetings violations in court, even if the lease is approved.
"The Port could potentially lose the $2 billion lease if it is enjoined from approving the lease," according to the port's filing. "That would result in enormous damages to the Port and the Corpus Christi area."