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Maxima Austin Before we go off the deep end with this superport story, it might be useful to lay out a few basic facts and assumptions. Fact: This is mainly an article about oil. Texas is in a traumatic transition from being an oil exporter to being an oil importer. In 1970, the state exported an average of 325,000 barrels of crude oil per day to other states. The National Petroleum Council estimates that by 1980 Texas will be importing 3.5 million not thousand, million barrels of crude each day and the NPC expects the imports to increase to more than 5.5 million barrels per day by 1985. Assertion: One need not accept at face value the conclusions of the National Petroleum Council, an organization dedicated to supporting the oil industry in the manner to which it has become so imperiously accustomed. We may not need that much oil. There are at least a few scientists who are seeking ways to free us from our dependence on fossil fuel, a few Don Quixotes trying to harness the wind or the tides or the sun or some other non-depletable energy source that no one can get a monopoly on. This, however, is not a story about alternative fuel sources. This is a story about oil and how in the future it will be transported to the State of Texas. Fact: The primary known reserves are in the Middle East, in Alaska, and, to a lesser extent, in South America and Indonesia. Assertion: Texas has a considerable investment in petroleum refinery The Texas Observer equipment, some 28 percent of the nation’s refining capacity. In the future, the state must run vast quantities of crude through its petrochemical machinery or Therefore, this state will try to scarf up as much foreign oil as it can beg, borrow, buy, steal or finagle. THE ALASKAN oil might come by pipeline, but the foreign oil is going to come by boats, probably very, very, very big boats, each one, say, the size of the Empire State Building floating on its side. You see, the big boats \(very large crude 300,000 tons can move crude oil over long distances for less than half the cost of the “average” 30,000 ton tanker.* The oil and shipping folks say that the big carriers are the only financially feasible way to transport oil. At present, there are no ports in Texas, or anywhere on the Gulf Coast, large enough to receive one of these floating skyscrapers. They need harbor depths of up to 100 feet and Texas’ deepest ports are only 40 feet. So, in 1970, a coalition of oil firms and port authorities began studying the port situation. And shortly thereafter, a group of petroleum biggies began developing plans for a Texas deepwater port. An oil consortium called SEADOCK* eventually decided to build a single point mooring system approximately 30 miles off the coast of Freeport in Brazoria County at a water depth of about 110 feet. SEADOCK would be built for the sole purpose of unloading crude oil from supertankers. Alas, SEADOCK has discovered that the State of Texas is no longer willing to follow the oil industry willy nilly into the next stage of the energy biz. In the past five years state government has taken a very serious interest in the Texas coast. When Preston Smith was governor, he set up an advisory committee on the coast and created a Coastal Resources Management Program to develop a plan for resource management and environmental protection. Then the Legislature created a Council on Marine-Related Affairs to advise the state government about the coast. And in 1972 the Legislature went so far as to create a Texas Offshore Terminal superports and make a recommendation by 1975. The TOTC is about to give its final approval to a plan that is virtually a carbon copy of the SEADOCK scheme. It calls for * Interim report of the Texas Offshore Terminal Commission, June 1, 1973. * Incorporated in Texas, SEADOCK includes the following participants: Amoco Pipe Line Co., Atlantic Richfield Co., Cities Service Oil Co., Continental Pipe Line Co., Crown Central Petroleum Corp., The Dow Chemical Co., Exxon Corp., Gulf Oil Corp., Mobil Oil Corp., Phillips Petroleum Co., Shell Oil Co. and Texaco, Inc. spending $400 million to build an offshore, monobuoy facility 30 miles off the coast of Brazoria County. But, instead of being owned and financed by a corsortium of oil companies, this port would be financed by state revenue bonds, owned by the citizens of Texas and regulated by a state agency. The state would contract with oil industry professionals to construct and manage the terminal. The SEADOCK people are none too happy with the proposal. The Texas Mid-Continent Oil & Gas Association endorses the idea of an offshore terminal but opposes state ownership. “At some point,” said Mid-Continent’s lobbyist, Bill Abington, “the citizens of Texas must choose between whether this facility will be operated as a free enterprise business under public regulation or whether it will become an experiment in socialism at thd state level.” Some oil company spokesmen have left the impression at state hearings that if Texas builds its own port, the oil companies just might not patronize it. But Babe Schwartz of Galveston, the Senate sponsor of the TOTC bill, thinks the oilmen are bluffing. At a recent hearing, Senator Schwartz made a strong pitch for a public port, saying he couldn’t remember any substantial sentiment for a privately-owned terminal when he and Rep. Ray Lemmon passed the bill. “The only people who are for a privately-owned terminal are those who want to own it,” he said. “This time I want them to do business on our terms for a change.” Burgess Griesenbeck, the only environmental representative on the nine-man commission, thinks the TOTC’s terms are surprisingly good. Asked about the report, Griesenbeck effused over the virtues of the Commission staff and its report. The draft approved by the Commission in late December, ranks environmental considerations equally with economic considerations in constructing a deepwater terminal. This is the only state report in the Observer’s memory that has placed such environmental importance on a construction project. The TOTC points out that in the past environmental considerations have been added to an industrial development only “as a cosmetic afterthought.” About the only way the report could have made a stronger pitch for the environment is by recommending the prohibition of deepwater ports off the Texas coast. But not even hard-core conservationists have lobbied against superports. Instead, they have advocated the construction of the safest port possible. Herbert D. Kelleher, representing the Committee to Save Our Texas Bays and Beaches, told the TOTC in January, “I predict that environmental groups, entirely capable of stalling an unacceptable plan through years of litigation, will practice a `hands-off’ policy with respect to the