Native Americans Claim Moda Terminal Expansion Will Impact Their Culture and Ability to Preserve History

Groups of Native Americans alleged in a lawsuit filed on Tuesday in the Southern District of Texas that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should not have granted a permit for the Moda Ingleside Oil Terminal to be expanded. 

The lawsuit was filed by Indigenous Peoples of the Coastal Bend, Karankawa Kadla Tribe of the Texas Gulf Coast, and Ingleside on the Bay Costal Watch Association. The plaintiffs claimed that they deserve “declaratory, injunctive, and other relief,” citing the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act. 

The permit, approved under the Clean Water Act, allows for the expansion of the Moda Terminal, or Moda Ingleside Energy Center, in the Corpus Christi Ship Channel. The complaint reported that the Moda Terminal is the largest in the U.S. for exports by volume and exports around 780 thousand barrels each day, which is about 24% of U.S. crude oil exports. The proposed expansion would add five more berths and double the terminal’s capacity for oil tankers and barges. 

Reportedly, the permit allows the Moda Terminal to dredge 3.9 million cubic yards from the bay. The defendants approved the permit on April 28, however, the plaintiffs alleged that the expansion “will have significant impacts on the environment, the surrounding community, and the public interest.” They claimed that the defendants did not sufficiently consider these impacts before granting the permit. 

The Native American plaintiffs explained that part of their mission is to work to preserve history and cultural resources of indigenous people in the gulf coast area and that some of their members consider the area sacred and frequently visit the area west of the Moda terminal to observe the landscape, shoreline, and water and for religious purposes.  

“Indigenous Peoples’ members and the Karankawa Kadla tribe’s members are concerned that the dredging of the Corpus Christi Bay will harm the natural ecosystem and destroy habitat that attracts wildlife. They are concerned that the dredging will destroy ancestral artifacts and thwart their efforts to learn more about their people’s history and culture, and that the expansion of the Moda Terminal will destroy the McGloin’s Bluff site and the surrounding area. The increase in ship traffic and the associated increase in noise, industrial activity, and pollution will destroy their ability to pray and find spiritual joy and fulfillment in observing their ancestral lands and waters,” the complaint explained. 

The third group, the Ingleside on the Bay Coastal Watch Association, includes over 130 members who own property or reside on the bay, including one individual who lives 810 feet from Moda Terminal’s property. They alleged that the noise, light pollution, and decreased water quality caused by the facility impairs their way of life and does not meet federal requirements for protecting natural resources. 

The plaintiffs are represented by Perales Allmon & Ice P.C. and Waltzer Wiygul & Garside LLC