Header image: Illustration by Nadya Nickels and Samson Awosan.
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In a few years’ time, a renewable hydrogen facility spanning 300 acres — about twice the size of Disneyland — is set to begin operating in Texas’ Matagorda County along the Gulf of Mexico.
As part of its proposal, the organizations behind the Gulf Coast hydrogen hub pledged the project would benefit disadvantaged communities in the area through jobs (the hub estimates it will create 45,000 jobs, mostly in construction), training programs, higher education curriculums and community-based grants.
However, environmental advocates question the quality of those jobs and whether they are worth potentially trading public health and safety.
“They are creating jobs to work in hazardous industries. Besides, most of the jobs created by these hubs are temporary and in construction with very few jobs for permanent skilled workers,” said Paige Powell, policy manager with Commission Shift, a nonprofit that monitors the activities of the Texas Railroad Commission, the agency that regulates the state’s fossil fuel industry.
Advocates will closely monitor the finalized plans for the Gulf Coast hydrogen hub. Until then, it is unclear exactly how local communities will benefit from this boom.
“The devil lies in the details,” said Powell, “so it’s important to know how the government plans to define environmental justice benefits for those vulnerable communities.”