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I.C. MURRELL — Local industry handling the rock, wants locals

Liquefied natural gas — how often do we hear this term in these parts?

How much do we know about LNG?

Well, the second question depends on who “we” is? Wherever I’m included, it’s not very much, admittedly.

Except two kind ladies representing Port Arthur LNG helped simplify the process for me and Publisher Stephen Hemelt. Natural gas is harvested and brought to an LNG plant, where the hydrocarbon is separated and chilled to a very low temperature — Rigzone.com reports about minus-260 degrees Fahrenheit — to liquefy the methane in the natural gas so it can be transported around the world.

Now, you see why Port Arthur is one of what I call America’s ports.

Texas and gas have been synonymous with each other for at least a century, with Texas and high school football enjoying such relationship for as long. The first image that may come to mind about natural gas in the state would be the fields of west Texas and the Panhandle, or at least that’s how commercial America would have us think. (If you ever want to find a closer field, just visit Carthage — a football-happy town with a deep championship pedigree.)

The LNG business is like the Permian Panthers in Odessa, west Texas — or Carthage Bulldogs in the east — “handling the rock,” which is football-speak for carrying the football — and handing it off to Port Arthur’s Memorial Titans for a touchdown. No team has to line up against another.

The rock, of course, is the gas from the rocks of Texas and sent down here for pay dirt.

Speaking of rock, development of a new portion of Texas 87 around a developing Port Arthur LNG project is more visible from the current stretch of highway, but it’s far from done. Nearly 930,000 tons of crushed rock has been placed for the new 3.5-mile stretch with more than 81,000 feet of pipeline installed and nearly 12,000 linear feet of silt fencing to eliminate soil runoff during construction, according to numbers from the company. When the highway is finally complete, PALNG will donate that stretch to the state.

According to an article on NPR’s State Impact website, Texas holds approximately 23 percent of the nation’s natural gas reserves to lead the U.S.

Nearly half of the 3 percent of the world’s total natural gas reserves the U.S. can claim is produced in Texas and Louisiana.

It’s another reason why where we live is special, hurricanes be darned.

It’s also why local industry as a whole is best served by hiring local.

While it’s been taken to task on this matter for one reason for another — I’ve heard the cries and asked tough questions because the hiring powers must otherwise be held accountable — Port Arthur LNG is listening. It has addressed concerns with the quality of air, held town hall meetings and job fairs, and given back to 43 local organizations, most if not all serving Port Arthur.

That’s just one company giving back. We see reports of its neighbors doing the same come into our newsroom.

Port Arthur Transit — a city department, mind you — is playing a key role. It has invited local contractors to brunch this morning at its administration building to discuss transportation options for workers who will be involved in upcoming expansion projects right here in this city, including one ongoing on PAT’s own Fourth Street campus.

The Port Arthur Economic Development Corporation is interested in making the city a “Work Ready Community,” meaning industry would partner with local school districts and Lamar State College Port Arthur to find students who are qualified with the needed skills industry identifies. Degrees are very important — I’m relying on my associate’s and bachelor’s degrees plus 20 years of journalism penmanship — but certification and skill are even more crucial.

When teams team up and everyone plays a role, from citizen to business to government, everyone’s a winner. That’s one sight we must never lose.

I.C. Murrell is the editor of Port Arthur Newsmedia. He can be reached at 409-721-2435 or at ic.murrell@panews.com.

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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