Gulf of Mexico
Located within the city limits of both Port Aransas and Aransas Pass, Harbor Island is zoned for industry. It has deep water, a highway, and channel frontage access. The property is the center of a dispute between the Port of Corpus Christi and the Port Aransas City Council.

Texas: Port of Corpus Christi files lawsuit against City of Port Aransas in oil terminal battle

According to the lawsuit, the city is violating Texas law which currently prohibits cities from taking any action to regulate an oil and gas operation.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The Port of Corpus Christi filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the City of Port Aransas in an effort to terminate a 30-year lease of the Port Aransas City Marina. The Marina is on the Port of Corpus Christi property.  

Termination could have a significant financial impact on Port Aransas because of the millions of dollars in annual revenue that the city receives from all the boat slips and charter services in that Marina.

The lawsuit is a direct result of a decision by the Port Aransas City Council to impose a moratorium on further heavy industrial development on Harbor Island where the Port of Corpus Christi intends to build a multi-billion dollar crude oil terminal.  

According to the lawsuit, the city is violating Texas law which currently prohibits cities from taking any action to regulate an oil and gas operation.  

The council vote also appears to violate a portion of the current lease agreement that expressly prohibits the City of Port Aransas from doing anything to adversely affect the development or expansion of the Corpus Christi ship channel.

3News reached out to the Port of Corpus Christi for comment. They declined, explaining they do not comment on pending litigation.

"We've been meeting with our attorneys and we disagree that our marina lease has been terminated as they say. Just to make the point absolutely clear -- We intend to vigorously defend our position," Port Aransas Mayor Charles Bujan said.

Officials say the moratorium needed to happen in order for the council to consider changing the zoning on Harbor Island, which is expressly prohibited under the existing lease agreement.

In the lawsuit, the Port of Corpus Christi does not ask for financial compensation. Instead, it seeks a rescinding of the Port Aransas City Council ordinance which they call unlawful.

Currently, there is no word whether Port Aransas council members would be willing to rescind the ordinance.

The lawsuit has not been assigned to a specific court.

See KIII article . . .

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Port of Corpus Christi Sues Port Aransas Over Moratorium

Corpus Christi Business News / Suzanne Freeman / Sept 5, 2019

The Port of Corpus Christi is fighting back against Port Aransas City Council’s moratorium on issuing permits for development on Harbor Island. A lawsuit filed by the port on September 3 asks Nueces County Court at Law No. 3 to declare certain city acts void, claiming the moratorium violates a Texas law prohibiting local governments from “interfering with oil and gas operations.”

“The ordinance is unlawful – both facially and as applied – because it violates Texas Natural Resources Code 81.523 and is, therefore, preempted,” reads a portion of the lawsuit.

Port Aransas City Council approved a 60-day moratorium on granting any development permits or approval for development on the island, which is within the city limits. Over the next two months, the city will be studying whether any zoning ordinance or other controls should be approved to regulate heavy industrial development.

The port has faced a recent backlash over plans to build two oil and gas terminals on the island to load and unload Very Large Crude Carriers. The port has filed for permits to build a desalination plant on Harbor Island as well. A dredging project is currently underway in the Corpus Christi Channel to prepare for the terminals.

Hurricane Harvey was cited by the city as a reason for the emergency action, which took effect immediately. As the city rebuilds its fire department, it cannot provide protection for any new development on the island, the city stated in its ordinance.

“As a result, a public emergency exists which adversely affects the life, health, property and public peace of those properties located on Harbor Island,” reads the city ordinance. “To ensure that these life safety concerns are protected, a temporary moratorium on further heavy industrial development on Harbor Island is warranted until adequate fire protection services and emergency response are available.”

That action violates terms of a lease between the city and the port that was entered into in April 2018, granting the city use of the Dennis Dreyer Municipal Harbor, according to the port. A letter from the port informed Port Aransas City Hall on September 4 that the lease has been terminated. Port Aransas wrote back immediately disputing those claims and asking for a meeting to work out differences.

See Corpus Christi Business News article . . .