Bipartisan group of border congressmen seek to boost natural gas exports to Mexico

January 14, 2019
In The News

At a time when a political battle over building a border wall has partially shutdown the federal government, a bipartisan group of congressmen from Texas have filed a bill that would strengthen U.S. energy sector ties to Mexico.

Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, has filed House Resolution 132, which seeks to boost U.S. funding for the North American Development Bank and give the binational financial institution authority to fund cross-border natural gas pipelines and natural gas-fired power plants as well as projects that boost cross-border energy distribution and energy security between the United States and Mexico.

Cuellar has found bipartisan support among three border congressmen who signed on to the bill as co-sponsors — Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes; Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville; and Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-Edinburg.

Hurd,whose vast district stretches from San Antonio to the suburbs of El Paso and includes hundreds of miles alonf the U.S. border with Mexico, explained his support.

"NADBank has helped fund many infrastructure projects that are critical to the public health and safety of South and West Texas communities, particularly for those in rural areas," Hurd said in a statement. "I am proud to introduce this bill with my friend Rep. Cuellar to ensure NADBank can continue to provide for folks I represent and will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to deliver real results back home."

Funded by both the U.S. and Mexican governments, the development bank was created shortly after the implementation of the North American  Free Trade Agreement in 1994.

Headquartered in San Antonio, the bank has provided $2.42 billion in loans & grants over the last 24 years for 167 projects ranging from water and sewage to public transportation, wind energy and solar power.

"The North American Development Bank has been a cost-effective investment for American taxpayers and provides essential services on our southern border," Cuellar said in a statement. "Clean drinking water, sewage and waste treatment are the kinds of basic projects we can't afford to under-fund. They don't just keep our communities clean – they keep us healthy and safe from disease."

The bank does not have authority to fund natural gas-related projects, but Cuellar's bill would change that. The bill is being introduced when rhetoric between President Donald Trump and Democratic members of Congress have politicized the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump recently visited the Rio Grande Valley border town of McAllen to draw support for the wall, which most border lawmakers oppose.

Cuellar's bill also comes at a time when U.S. natural gas exports to Mexico have reached record highs due to a massive build out of cross-border pipelines and increasing demand south of the border.

With falling domestic production and increased demand from new power plants and factories, Mexico is importing more than 6 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from the United States, a recent report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration states.

Although most of the cross-border natural gas pipelines were built based on contracts issued by Mexico's Federal Electricity Commission, or CFE, to feed new power plants, there have been some also been some purely private sector initiatives.

San Antonio pipeline company Howard Energy Partners partnered with Grupo CLISA of Monterrey to build the Nueva Era Pipeline, which moves natural gas from the border city of Laredo to government-owned power plants and private customers in wealthy and industrial city of Monterrey.