Translate page with Google

Story Publication logo March 20, 2024

'All Gassed Up,' Part 1: The Carbon Coast

A ship in a foggy harbor

The Gulf Coast is the epicenter for exporting liquefied natural gas around the world.

author #1 image author #2 image
Multiple Authors
A ship in a foggy harbor
An ocean-going tanker carrying liquefied natural gas stops at Calcasieu Pass LNG in Cameron Parish, Louisiana. Image by Carlyle Calhoun/WWNO. United States.

Right now in the US, there is a GAS BOOM. A liquefied natural gas boom — or LNG. The US produces the most LNG in the world. And the epicenter of this massive expansion? It’s here on the Gulf Coast.

For the last year, we’ve traversed Louisiana trying to uncover what this growing LNG industry means for the state. But, after talking with everyone — from shrimpers to energy insiders — we realized that the stakes were far bigger. If we really wanted to tell the whole story, we had to travel even farther. In this 3-part series, we follow the journey of American gas around the world to find out if LNG is the miracle fuel it’s claimed to be; if it really can prevent a climate apocalypse. Or is it a carbon bomb waiting to go off?

As a nonprofit journalism organization, we depend on your support to fund our nationwide Connected Coastlines climate reporting. Donate any amount today to become a Pulitzer Center Champion and receive exclusive benefits!

In part one, we start in Louisiana — ground zero. We see how the rise of these massive export terminals has transformed one community. Is this big bet on LNG worth it?

“All Gassed Up” is a special three-part series from Sea Change. This special series is part of the Pulitzer Center’s nationwide Connected Coastlines reporting initiative. For more information, go to

For more information about the safety of LNG terminals, see the latest reporting from Floodlight, a nonprofit investigative climate news outlet.

To learn more about President Biden’s ongoing LNG pause, look no farther. And about how LNG exports could drive up domestic energy prices.

To see more reporting on Venture Global LNG, find more here. The company is also in the middle of an ongoing fight with other oil and gas companies that are suing Venture Global.

This episode, Part 1, was hosted, reported and produced by Carlyle Calhoun and Halle Parker. It was edited by Morgan Springer, Rosemary Westwood, and Eve Abrams. Additional help was provided by Ryan Vasquez and Eva Tesfaye. The episode was fact-checked by Garrett Hazelwood. Our sound designer is Emily Jankowski. Our theme music is by Jon Batiste.

Special thanks to everyone who made this episode possible, including For a Better BayouFishermen Interested in Saving Our Heritage (FISH), and the Louisiana Bucket Brigade.

Sea Change is a WWNO and WRKF production. We are part of the NPR Podcast Network and distributed by PRX. To see more of our reporting on LNG, visit And to help others find our podcast, hit subscribe wherever you get your podcasts, and don’t forget to rate and review!


Note: Transcripts are produced by a third-party transcription service and may contain errors (including name spellings). Please be aware that the official record for our episodes is the audio version.


HALLE: It’s January in New Orleans, Louisiana. And hundreds of oil and gas executives have flown in from across the world. They look polished. Slick suits, high heel shoes. They’re here to discuss the future of energy.

CARLYLE: Inside sterile, convention center walls, leaders from the largest energy companies throw around these big buzzwords. Energy transition. Net zero. Low carbon.

HALLE: And they’re relying on an old familiar fuel to take us there: Gas.

CARLYLE: They say we can keep drilling for gas and fix climate change.

<<general protest ambi>>

HALLE: Outside the conference, there are hundreds of protestors from across the Gulf Coast. They aren’t buying it.

TRAVIS: These people over here, the decisions that they made, for which our fishermen are paying the price, that's bullshit. // We're still gonna try to give them hell before we leave.

HALLE: A group of fishermen have hauled their boats in on trailers. Now, they stand on top of them and rev their engines. <<fishermen engine ambi>> CARLYLE: These are some of the guys who started this fight against gas plants in Louisiana years ago. The locals. And now giants in the environmental movement are finally noticing. People like Jane Fonda.

JANE FONDA: It's like driving into Manhattan at night when you approach these structures. And then you realize they're right on beaches, they're next to homes. It feels like looking into the devil's eyes. 

HALLE: The world’s largest environmental groups now say something big has been brewing on the Gulf Coast. Something that slipped under even THEIR radar. Under everyone’s radar — except for those fishermen, and locals watching it happen with their own eyes. Something that could change the fate of our planet.

CARLYLE: And earlier this year, it all came to a head. The pressure that had been SLOWLY building on the Biden administration finally popped.

DEMOCRACY NOW:  In a victory for the climate movement…

MSNBC: The Biden administration paused approvals for massive fossil fuel projects, specifically liquified natural gas. 

CNBC 2:  A pause that sees the climate crisis for what it is the existential threat of our time 

HALLE: Basically: until further notice, the White House froze any new gas development along the coast.

CARLYLE: Until they figure out the answer to one big question: whether we actually need all of this gas. Especially in a world transitioning away from fossil fuels.

HALLE: But Biden’s big announcement is only a slight derailment of a major transformation already well underway.


CARLYLE: I’m Carlyle Calhoun.

HALLE: I’m Halle Parker. And you’re listening to All Gassed Up, a special series from Sea Change in partnership with the Pulitzer Center.

CARLYLE: Right now in the US, there is a GAS BOOM – a liquified natural gas boom. —

or L N G — The US now produces more LNG than any other country in the world. And the epicenter of this booming new business? The reason all those fancy gas execs came to New Orleans? It’s here — on the Gulf Coast.

HALLE: If you’ve been listening to Sea Change for a while, you know Carlyle and I live in New Orleans. We’ve been reporting on major industries all along the coast for years. But recently we started to hear more and more about the next big industry: It was LNG. (pause) For the last year, we’ve been criss-crossing the state trying to uncover what this growing LNG industry means for Louisiana.

CARLYLE: But, after talking with everyone– from shrimpers to energy insiders – we realized that the stakes are way bigger. If we really wanted to tell the whole story, we had to travel even farther. In this 3-part series, we follow the journey of American gas around the world to find out if LNG is the miracle fuel it’s claimed to be. If it really can prevent a climate apocalypse.

HALLE: Or is it a carbon bomb waiting to go off.

CARLYLE: Today, we start at home. In Louisiana. With a guy in a trailer, who’s pissed.

<<Driving ambi>>

CARLYLE: Driving through rural Cameron Parish feels like you’ve been transported to another time… The parish is tucked into the southwest corner of Louisiana. And most of it is just wide open marsh and prairie.

HALLE: It’s the type of place where there are basically two choices on the radio: church or french cajun music.

<<maybe cajun music ambi from Carly>>

CARLYLE: I’m on my way to John Allaire’s place.

<<ambi car turning off, door closing>>

CARLYLE: I pull up to JOHN’s and he greets me with his two dogs.


AMBI: CARLYLE: Hi, good to meet you. 

AMBI: JOHN: Great to meet you too. You've got a mosquito on your forehead.

CARLYLE In fact, I am being swarmed by mosquitos.

JOHN: You want some bug spray? This is Cameron Cologne. 

CARLYLE: What'd you call it? 

JOHN: Cameron Cologne. Deep Woods Off. 

CARLYLE: We douse ourselves in bug spray and then he shows me around. He owns about 300 acres sitting right on the Gulf of Mexico.

JOHN: I have a 34-foot outback travel trailer here that I stay in 95 percent of the time, 

HALLE: JOHN’s in his late 60s, He’s tall slim and serious. He recently retired from being an engineer. He’s owned this land for around 25 years.

JOHN: you know, I love it. My whole family grew up here. My daughter and her husband were out last week and we were out here duck hunting. We caught some redfish on the beach.

CARLYLE: But this wild quiet place that feels like it’s on the edge of the earth is changing. fast. And I wanted to spend the day with JOHN because he knows that better than anyone.

JOHN: my property goes out that way almost a mile. There’s a great egret, no that’s an ibis, a whited ibis right there.

CARLYLE: There are birds everywhere. 

JOHN: Oh this is nothing compared to what it normally is. There goes an egret that was on the bridge fishing.

CARLYLE: So, I mean, did you think you bought paradise? 

JOHN: Oh yeah. Well, for me it is. You know, there was no light pollution. We had campfires every night. 

CARLYLE: John and I gaze out across his land.

Carlyle: if you look in this direction, it basically looks like wilderness. you know, it's beautiful. 

John: It's wetlands. It's a protected estuary. 

CARLYLE: But then we turn around …and it’s a literal and figurative 180.

JOHN: hear that zzzzzz  in the background?


JOHN: That's Venture Global. 

CARLYLE: We are now staring at a giant LNG facility. It’s less than a mile from John’s trailer. And it’s owned by Venture Global LNG, which is a nam e you’re about to hear a lot. It’s one of the fastest-growing gas export companies in the world.

CARLYLE: Can you describe what it looks like? 

JOHN: Uh, concrete and pipes, a lot of concrete, a lot of pipes, and then there's a large tanker that's over there loading.  

CARLYLE: The massive facility sits at the mouth of the Calcasieu River right by the Gulf of Mexico. A maze of structures in a sea of…not much else

JOHN: I've shown you the photographs of what it looks like at night. I mean, it's just,  it looks like you're looking at Las Vegas.  There's the noise You can smell it. So  It's, uh, way different than it was three or four years ago before all that was there. 

CARLYLE: John can’t believe how quickly this paradise is disappearing. How quickly it has become the frontline of the LNG boom. He thinks what’s happening could destroy the Gulf Coast, and people’s health. But he says nobody seems to care.

JOHN: They let these folks do anything they want to down here.


HALLE: After Venture Global built the LNG facility, so much changed in such a short time frame. And it all seemed to happen out of the blue.

CARLYLE: But we learned it wasn’t out of the blue. (pause for music) So, we’re going to stop here, and back up. What exactly is LNG? And where did this LNG boom come from?


HALLE: To answer that, we’re going to rewind the clock back about a decade to 2012. When Barack Obama was president. Around that time, there was this buzzy new thing, with a less buzzy name: hydraulic fracturing.

CARLYLE: You might know this as fracking. A process that cracks open rock deep underground to get to oil and gas that’s trapped down there. Fracking helped us reach gas we hadn’t been able to tap before. And Obama was cheering the new development.

OBAMA: Some of you may not have been following this, but because of new technology we’ve got a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years. Turns out we are the Saudi Arabia of natural gas. We’ve got a lot of it”

HALLE: The way we frack had gotten way more efficient. And so, just like that, the US entered a natural gas boom.


CARLYLE: Exxon was one of the companies to capitalize on this. They made this video 7 years ago about how natural gas will be…

VIDEO: the world's fastest growing major energy source through the year 2040.

HALLE: As companies like Exxon experienced this glut of gas, they started looking to expand their market. Beyond the U.S. But they had to figure out how to do it. How could they get their gas across huge oceans?

CARLYLE: Enter LNG. It’s just natural gas like your stove might use, but it’s been supercooled.

VIDEO: to negative 260 degrees Fahrenheit, 

CARLYLE: And as the gas cools…

VIDEO: it is reduced to 1 600th of its previous volume. 

HALLE: Which is a whole lot smaller. Small enough to make it possible to load up in tanks on giant ships.

VIDEO: Some of the largest LNG ships, such as the QMAX, are longer than 60 city buses.

CARLYLE: So now, industry could sell their gas overseas … and for a lot more money.

VIDEO: to buyers and consumers around the world. <<video music fades out>>

HALLE: And within a decade, the pendulum swings. The U.S. goes from a net importer of oil and gas to the largest exporter of oil and gas in the world. Yep, more than Saudi Arabia.

CARLYLE: Oil and gas companies were stoked. And so were some environmental groups – who at the time, agreed that at least natural gas is better than coal.

HALLE: This was their reasoning: gas burns cleaner, with fewer planet-warming carbon emissions and less air pollution, so it could help the world get off dirty coal. And there’s something to that. The switch from coal to gas has helped the U.S. cut its own climate pollution. It was being called a bridge fuel.

Nat gas ad: Natural gas…providing a bridge to a future powered by renewable energy. Together, let's harness the power of natural gas while we drive towards a brighter, greener future.

HALLE: and this so-called “bridge fuel” is flowing like never before…last year the US extracted the most natural gas in history…the reason for the increased drilling? Demand for LNG.

<<construction noises>>

CARLYLE: The whole Gulf Coast has been swept up in this LNG frenzy. As big energy companies looked for a home base for sending U.S. gas overseas… leaders on the Gulf Coast welcomed them with open arms. Now, there’s a huge buildout planned, with proposals for new LNG plants popping up left and right.

HALLE: You’re hearing the sound of one plant under construction just outside New Orleans. And a lot of people are excited about it like, Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy.

Senator Cassidy: Right now i’m told the 4th largest construction project in world is in south louisiana by venture global.…think of the jobs!

CARLYLE: It’s one of two dozen plants on the Gulf Coast– either already built or in the works. This rapid development is concentrated along 100-miles of coastal Texas and Louisiana. And, Cameron Parish could soon be home to a third of them.

HALLE: And these new plants are completely transforming life in the communities where they’re built. Especially for the people who live the closest to them.

<<meeting ambi>>

DNR MODERATOR: Please remember that the purpose of this public hearing is for DNR to receive your comments…

HALLE: Back in November, Louisiana’s Department of Natural Resources held a public hearing in Cameron.

<<meeting noise>>

HALLE: Venture Global plans to massively expand its LNG exports. The company wants to build another LNG plant … right next to the one it already operates near John Allaire’s place.

CARLYLE: And if it’s built, it will be the biggest LNG plant in the world. The public hearing room was packed. Standing room only.

HALLE: And clearly divided. Supporters on the left side, and opponents on the right. But it was clear who brought the cavalry.

Zeke Wainwright: I support Venture Global and its expansion and all LNGs in our area

MELISSA: I work for Portford Construction, cleaning the offices on-site. Venture Global has made my employment possible.

HOWARD: I support (pause) the LNGs. Heck, we wouldn't be here if it wouldn't be for them.

CARLYLE: One after another residents spoke in support. The vast majority either worked at Venture Global’s plant, worked for a business that was contracted by the company, or they knew someone who worked there, and they say this LNG expansion is turning around a struggling community.


CARLYLE: Oil and gas used to be the backbone of Cameron. Along with fishing, it’s been essential. The area was home to the state’s first-ever offshore oil platform built back in 1937. At the meeting, residents spoke about how oil and gas helped grow the community.

THERESA THERIOT: Most families were raised down here, working in the oil field or an oil field service company. 

HALLE: But it also left the area vulnerable to the fossil fuel industry’s boom and bust cycles. And in the last two decades, jobs in oil and gas here have plummeted.

CARLYLE: During the same time, four major hurricanes devastated the region. For many, the cycle of rebuilding was too much. The parish’s population has been slashed in half.

HALLE: With so few people and a dwindling tax base, resources are stretched. The parish has been looking for a win. A way to keep Cameron from going under. (pause). For some people like Howard Romero, vice president of the local port commission, it feels like these new LNG terminals are throwing them a massive life preserver.

HOWARD: When we had no schools, they brought portable buildings in for us to operate in. // When we look at our parish, we say, Where would we be today if it wasn't for the LNG?

CARLYLE: The several dozen supporters who spoke feel the same way. For them, this new business of LNG feels like the return of an old, familiar friend — one that could help this place live on.

MARY NUNEZ: We have been the forgotten town for so long. // Cameron needs this to survive and prosper.

CARLYLE: But not everyone agrees.

DNR OFFICER: John Allaire?

HALLE: Yep, it’s John, who we met in the beginning in a swarm of mosquitos. He’s the only speaker at the meeting who actually lives close to the plant. And he was sitting on the other side of the aisle. Outnumbered. But he strode right up to the podium — carrying a map, and a bunch of gallon-sized ziplock bags.

JOHN: People are talking about // (plop) no visible problem (plop) with the Venture global. (plop)

HALLE: That sound you hear is JOHN slapping down big ole bags of mud — one after the other — taken from his property.

JOHN: I have buckets of free samples of it out in my truck if you want to see. 

CARLYLE: John says the muck lined the beach after Venture Global dredged for construction.

JOHN:  and it's black viscous mud.  The whole area, that whole beachfront is ruined. 

HALLE: John says he believes the community is trading its very foundation – the place it’s built on – all for an industry that won’t stick around when profits slow.

JOHN: That marsh is going to be gone, the wetlands are going to be gone, the estuaries are going to be covered up with these concrete monuments. 


CARLYLE: Up next, why some fear this big bet on LNG across the Gulf Co ast… could be its downfall.

TRAVIS: It seemed like at times we'd wake up in the morning gasping for air. That's not supposed to happen.



<<boat engine ambi>> 

HALLE: I’m out on the water with shrimper Travis Dardar. You met Travis in the beginning of this story. He was on his boat then too. But on dry land. Leading other shrimpers in protest.

TRAVIS: We might get there and drop the nets in and not a one. They turn off like a light switch.

HALLE: It’s hard to hear him over his loud engine – even for me standing right next to him on the boat. We’re cruising up the Calcasieu Ship Channel in Cameron Parish. The oil and gas industry has proposed several gas export plants here. Travis is staunchly opposed to all of them. Today, we’re just fishing.

<<ambi of buttons being pushed on the boat>>

Dolphins glide nearby as Travis drops his nets in the water… and starts trawling for shrimp. We’re hoping for big ones.

TRAVIS: Nobody wants small shrimp. // All I can do with that shit is throw it back in the water. 

CARLYLE: Travis comes from a long line of shrimpers, and he’s spent his whole life working on the water. He’s got a round, suntanned face to show for it. Which makes his blue eyes shine even brighter.

HALLE: Travis says he remembers the first time his grandfather took him out shrimping. He was young. 5 or 6. He says it was dark outside when his grandmother woke him up.

TRAVIS: She fixed me two cheese sandwiches. I still remember that.  I've been fishing every day since.

CARLYLE: Even when the oil and gas industry slowed down in Cameron, the seafood industry kept the area afloat. And historically, it was huge, one of the biggest fishing ports in the country.

HALLE: Travis hauls his nets out of the water and dumps out a mass of shrimp. Some small, but a lot are big, like he hoped. Travis says it was worth the trip — though with how much he loves his boat, it almost always is.

TRAVIS: Come on now. I love it out here. I sleep better on this boat than I do in the house. When you're born and raised into this kind of stuff, you know, it's peaceful.

HALLE: On the way back, Venture Global’s LNG plant dominates the view. The gas export terminal dwarfs Travis’ boat. And the tankers that transport the gas make the shrimp boat seem like a dinghy in comparison. CARLYLE: For years, Travis and other shrimpers in Cameron say they’ve been squeezed out. They’re some of the loudest voices opposing the LNG expansion.

HALLE: The shrimpers have watched three LNG plants get built in Cameron — each destroying hundreds of acres of wetlands. That means less habitat for shrimp. With each plant, they say they’ve noticed fewer shrimp. Docks that once held dozens of boats only hold a handful now.

CARLYLE: A popular public dock where shrimpers used to unload their catch was closed. Venture Global now owns that property. And this spring, the only fish house in the region will shutter. Fishers will need to drive 4 hours one way to sell their shrimp.


CARLYLE: And it’s not just that they’re worried about their livelihoods. They are also worried about their health.

CHANTS FROM 2022 RALLY: Shut it down!HALLE: A couple of years ago, Travis led a different protest. A convoy of shrimp boats floated just outside another gathering of gas executives. The boats were draped with huge signs. One read, “Thou shalt not poison thy neighbor.”

<<convoy ambi>>

CARLYLE: Poison thy neighbor – that’s a strong accusation. But some people believe that’s exactly what’s happening.


JOHN: welcome to my humble abode 

CARLYLE: We are back at John's trailer — you remember JOhn, the guy who was toting bags of mud at LNG hearing.

JOHN: Might smell a little bit like wet dog and, uh, wet me, wet clothing, because it's been three days of rain, so. 

CARLYLE: He's got some documents he wants to show me, documents that show all the pollution that’s happening. On his kitchen table is a large stack of papers. John pulls out an old aerial photograph of the area.

JOHN: so I'm here. This is where the Venture Global facility is sitting right now. And they want to expand it back into here.

CARLYLE: John's pointing to the plant. It’s about a mile away. Then he pulls out a recent photograph.

JOHN: This was taken earlier this year.

CARLYLE: Where’d you take this?

JOHN:  From my patio here. 

CARLYLE: In the photo, flames spew out of tall stacks. This is called flaring. When companies pipe in gas, it has a lot of other chemicals in it. To get those chemicals out, the company burns them off. But, burning those chemicalssends all kinds of toxic pollution into the air. It’s bad for the environment and people. John reads from Venture Global’s permit. This is what the plant is releasing.

JOHN: You got sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide, they're emitting carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, 1, 3 butadiene,  acetaldehyde, acrylin, benzene…

– Duck – 

CARLYLE: John goes on for a while. It’s a long list. And next to the list is the amount that’s being released.

JOHN: It's 3.9 million tons per year of those components. 

CARLYLE: They're allowed to release that much? 

JOHN: a permit is a permit to pollute, so they have an air permit to release that amount of pollution.  Uh, but, they couldn't meet that. They had all kinds of problems with their operations last year.

CARLYLE: There’s no way to know how much the quality of air in Cameron has changed. There are no official state or federal air monitoring stations in the area– just Venture Global’s self-reporting of its pollution. But John’s collecting as much information as he can. He’s been documenting what he can see from his patio, pretty much every day since Venture Global started operating.

CARLYLE: You're just watching them flare all the  time?

JOHN: Well, they aren't this morning, but it'll be very surprising if they aren't by the end of the day.

CARLYLE: Flaring is only allowed to be used in limited amounts because of all the dangerous pollution it releases. It can also double the amount of planet-warming emissions from the facility. Venture Global has a permit that allows for a small amount of flaring—the equivalent of two and a half days a year. But John has almost a daily diary of flares. Hundreds of timestamped photos captured by a special camera.

HALLE: And instead of fixing the problems leading to the excess pollution, Venture Global is asking regulators to change their permit… to allow for more flaring. John’s not happy about it.

JOHN: it's 833 percent over what they said they were going to do in the initial project, you know.

HALLE: Now, John might sound a little like the crazy guy next door with all his papers and charts. But he knows what he’s talking about. Remember, John was an engineer. But not just any engineer. He was an environmental engineer who worked for decades at BP and other oil and gas companies. And John says what he’s seeing from Venture Global.. isn’t normal.

JOHN: But they continue to operate rather than shut it down and fix it. That's not the industry standard. If a piece of equipment's broken, you shut it down and fix it. 

CARLYLE: Venture Global got slapped with a compliance order from the state after violating their permit thousands of times in their first year.

JOHN: if you go look through the data on how Venture Global responded to that, they basically said, well, it's not our fault. 

HALLE: In the past, the company has said it did nothing wrong, that the issues were out of their control, and the company has appealed to the state. We asked Venture Global for a tour of the plant and sent multiple requests for comments, We haven’t received a response.


CARLYLE: John gives me a tour of the area from his truck, and as we drive around, I ask him what upsets him the most about the LNG expansion.

JOHN: it's the whole thing. It's the short term planning thing. The short term get it out of the ground as fast as we can sell it to the highest bidder. I mean, that's our plan.  Uh, we have, no concern for the environment down here.

CARLYLE: We pull back into John’s driveway, and he points to the property directly next door. Where another LNG plant  is proposed. 

JOHN:They'll fence off this whole part of the marsh, that's where their flare is going to be, right on top of this chenier. 

CARLYLEChenier means oak grove in French. They are these ancient ridges lined with live oaks that are unique to the area.

CARLYLE: And you said cheniers are supposed to be protected? 

JOHN: Yep. They're going to let them bulldoze this

HALLE: John says this destruction of nature would never be allowed to happen in other places. He says we have the East Coast, the West Coas t, and here – the carbon coast.

JOHN: That chenier took thousands of years to build.  Uh, we're gonna put a facility in there that'll take three years to build and then they'll walk away from it and there won't be any restoration orut there.  There's a kingfisher flying right there.  Um,  but they won't come if it's all concrete.

CARLYLE: He says this is a familiar story. One Cameron has seen before. The boom before the eventual bust. But until then, he's watching the expansion swallow up more of his paradise.


CARLYLE: Despite the nightly flares and the toxic pollution that comes with them, John’s been able to stay in his home in Cameron – but not everyone has been as lucky.

<<driving ambi>>

HALLE: I’m driving to the small town of Kaplan, Louisiana. It’s an hour and a half drive away from Cameron. No marshes. No beach. Yet, it’s here we find shrimper, Travis Dardar. On land this time. In a house covered in Christmas lights.

TRAVIS: I might’ve went just a little bit overboard.

HALLE: It was close to the holidays, and we’re in his new house. A doublewide mobile home, set up on two acres of land. Enough space for his family of four, plus their pets.

TRAVIS: I got the two dogs and a pig. 

HALLE: You have a pig too? 

TRAVIS: Yeah. He's got till Christmas. 

HALLE: Okay. <<duck under>>

CARLYLE: Travis and his family used to live less than a mile from the LNG plant. on four acres right along the coast.

HALLE: After the LNG plant came online in 2021, headaches and other health issues started to plague Travis, his wife, and their kids.

TRAVIS: It seemed like at times we'd wake up in the morning gasping for air. That's not supposed to happen.  

HALLE: His wife, Nicole, even had heart problems. And Travis believes it's related to the air pollution coming from the LNG plant, pollution documented by Venture Global and John.

TRAVIS: Obviously, there were chemicals coming out of that place since day one. That thing leaked like a basket // and what's crazy is that they put it right out there. // and acted like it was fine, like it was okay. // That is not okay.  

CARLYLE: We should note it’s difficult to attribute a specific case of an illness to air pollution, but long-term exposure to emissions like methane can cause cardiovascular, neurological and respiratory issues. LNG plants are known to release huge amounts of methane – which is the key component of gas.

HALLE: A couple years ago, Travis was on a local TV show talking about his problems with the plant and its pollution.

TRAVIS: The next day I get back home // I had their cards on my windshield wiper. 

HALLE: Business cards from a Venture Global representative. Offering to buy his house. For close to a year, he says he went back and forth with the company over the possibility of a buyout. At the first offer, Travis wasn’t willing to sell.

TRAVIS: The hell you want me to do with that? Bud, get out of here. 

CARLYLE: Travis had been forced to uproot his family once already. Cameron was his adopted home. He grew up in a remote indigenous community on a narrow strip of land on the edge of Louisiana, surrounded by marsh. It’s called Isle de Jean Charles, and Travis is a member of the Jean Charles Choctaw Nation.

TRAVIS: It was beautiful down there. // Back then, we could go in the little bayou in the front, and fill up the back end of the truck with shrimp.

HALLE: But Isle de Jean Charles faced an existential threat of its own. The island has rapidly eroded – like much of Louisiana’s coastline, worsened by the oil and gas industry. And rising seas due to climate change could swallow the community whole.

With each storm, he watched conditions on the island worsen as trees were swept away and hurricanes grew more dangerous…. finally…

TRAVIS:  It just wasn't home anymore. Time to go. After my grandpa died, I realized everything I loved about that place was gone.  You know, and there was no future for me there. 

CARLYLE: So, he bought land and moved his family 200 miles away… to Cameron.

TRAVIS: I went to Cameron, nothing but the clothes on my back, a carton of cigarettes, Nicole and her mama had bought me. I went to work. //  I worked day and night. // A few weeks later, I done bought a trailer. 

CARLYLE: Cameron was supposed to be their permanent home — one that was safe and good for shrimping. And it was, he says…. Until the LNG plant came.


HALLE: For the last two years, Travis has been leading protests, talking to reporters, going to public meetings. And the buyout offers kept coming in.

TRAVIS: I told them when it makes sense for me to leave, I'm going to leave.

HALLE: He says the company’s last offer made sense. Not just because of the money but Travis and his family were tired of feeling sick… and his wife’s health had taken a turn.

TRAVIS: At that point, Nicole had a heart attack. You know, we suffered there so long. So, so long.  And I was done.


CARLYLE: These days, it takes a 3-hour boat ride for Travis to reach his old shrimping grounds. But he says he’s glad they moved.

TRAVIS: It's like we can breathe again. 

HALLE: Travis hopes this move will be hi s last. But he might not be the last person displaced by this growing push to export more American gas. We’ve heard from more than a dozen other people who live or work near these plants and they say these facilities are not good neighbors. And that it’s not just the pollution that’s dangerous.

KHOU: This is the aftermath of an explosion that rocked a natural gas plant.

CARLYLE: The LNG plants themselves hold highly flammable chemicals. If something goes wrong with operations, it can lead to disaster. The chances are small, but the risk is real. A plant in Texas was shut down for months after an explosion in 2022. Twenty years ago, another explosion at an LNG hub in Algeria killed 30 people.

JOHN: There's a whole list of things that have happened with this. 

HALLE: John’s no stranger to environmental catastrophe. He helped clean up after the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. He doesn’t trust that enough’s being done at Venture Global’s plant to make sure its operations are safe.

JOHN: It'll take a disaster over here, but the same thing is going to happen. 

HALLE: For people living nearby, the risk raises the question: How safe are these LNG terminals? Well, we don’t know. Recent reporting has found that information about the risks is shrouded in secrecy. Companies aren’t required to make their emergency plans public, and that makes John nervous. —

CARLYLE: This is the price the people in the Gulf Coast are paying to become a world player in LNG. Some people think it’s worth it. The new industry helped local schools and tax revenue. But JOHN doesn’t think it’s worth it. and he says this perspective is spreading.

JOHN: You know, people are starting to wake up to, uh, Hey, I'm seeing the flaring. I'm not seeing the benefit. We're not getting any tax breaks on it. They're getting all the tax breaks. We get nothing. They beat up the roads. uh…they closed down the ferry landing over there and won't let the fishermen in there anymore. 

CARLYLE: And then John adds, it’s not just them that are paying the price.

JOHN: You know, it's affects every American. 

HALLE: John’s right. Last year, the U.S. Energy Information Association. – basically, the country’s top energy data nerds — found higher exports push U.S gas prices higher. In other words, exporting more American gas means Americans pay more for energy. For their utility bills.

CARLYLE: This is what’s going on: When we keep our natural gas here, domestically, supply goes up, and energy prices go down. But if we send our gas overseas into the global gas market, where countries are willing to pay more, our prices go up. A lot.

Meanwhile, Venture Global and other LNG companies are making record profits.

HALLE: So if we are getting the pollution, and higher, unpredictable energy prices…and none of this gas. Who is all of this for?

CARLYLE: I get a glimpse of the answer as I’m gathering my equipment from John’s trailer to leave, when I hear him call out from the patio.

JOHN: There's an LNG tanker going out right now. You see that red on the top?

CARLYLE: The ship is heading out the mouth of the river, into the open Gulf.

CARLYLE: How often do these LNG tankers go by here? 

JOHN: Oh, you see two a day, generally.

CARLYLE: we pull up an app on my phone that shows all boat traffic…

CARLYLE: You think it's that right there, that yellow one? 

JOHN: Yep. it's, uh, destination is Poland. ETA December 16th is their arrival status underway.  

Dramatic music

HALLE: In the next episode, we follow the gas. All the way to Europe.


yellow halftone illustration of an elephant


Environment and Climate Change

Environment and Climate Change
yellow halftone illustration of two construction workers moving a wheelbarrow of dirt


Extractive Industries

Extractive Industries





A woman walks along a dock with a boat nearby


Connected Coastlines

Connected Coastlines

Support our work

Your support ensures great journalism and education on underreported and systemic global issues