News Politics san marcos

Pipeline development stirs controversy in Central Texas

By: Christopher Green, Jacob Sommers, Carl Heiser

430-mile pipeline development running from West Texas to the Gulf Coast is haunting Hill Country, where landowners can’t stop construction on their property because of eminent domain. 

Residents can’t stop Kinder Morgan Inc.’s controversial gas pipeline due to an eminent domain statute that allows for-profit companies to develop on land without the consent of owners.

During a crowded open hall at Gillespie Co. Fairgrounds in Fredericksburg, Texas, an area the gas pipeline will run through, hundreds of residents met with Kinder Morgan representatives to voice their concerns.

Fredericksburg resident Richard Zowie said he believes the pipeline will probably not be successful due to environmental concerns from the community.

“I just kind of wonder, is it really worth it to do this, versus having trucks transporting from point A to point B?” Zowie said. “They say it’s safe, but leaks do happen. We’re on top of the Edwards Aquifer, which is a huge thing to consider.”

Austin Kessler, a Driftwood resident, said he is against the development of the Permian Highway Pipeline.

“I’m absolutely opposed to it. We should be weaning ourselves from fossil fuels and doing solar and wind instead,” Kessler said. “The route proposes to be just a couple of miles from our house.”

Kinder Morgan Inc., an energy infrastructure company, plans to develop the gas pipeline to transport up to 2.1 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas. The project has been deemed the Permian Highway Pipeline. According to Kinder Morgan Inc., the development of the pipeline aims to increase natural gas production from West Texas to growing market areas along the Texas Gulf Coast.

Information about the pipeline has made its way to San Marcos, and some residents, like Jackie Lynn, have started to protest the development.

“The process itself is very damaging to the earth and our water and our land. We want to educate people on the issue and let them know this is happening,” Lynn said. “We’ll do demonstrations on the capitol, talking to organizations, churches, maybe showing films and pressuring our legislators through petition to reform eminent domain.”

According to Kinder Morgan, the project has an estimated cost of approximately $2 billion and is expected to be in service in late 2020. It will generate $42 million of increased annual revenue to applicable state and local taxing bodies.

Vice President for Public Affairs at Kinder Morgan, Allen Fore, said the pipeline will be a better environmental alternative than not using it, and the gas exported from the pipeline will be used for a variety of applications.

“With a lot of crude extraction going on natural gas is a by-product, and if you don’t have a place to put it, it’ll just be flared or burned away. That’s a waste of important natural resources and it’s not good for the environment.”

“We’re putting this into a pipeline and shipping it to a gas distribution area where it will be used for power generation, home heating and cooling, commercial uses and some export to Mexico.”

Fredericksburg resident Alicia Frentcen said the pipeline is going directly through property she and her husband own. They do not support the development and are trying to fight against it.

“We’re trying our best. These people are under-handed devious people with no regulation,” Frentcen said.

Fore also said Kinder Morgan has been receptive to impacted residents’ concerns and will work with them to regulate operation times. According to Fore, Kinder Morgan will create personalized agreements with every resident affected by the pipeline’s prospective path.

“Those conversations have been going on for months. Those people that are going to have construction on their property have already had those discussions.”

Fore said residents have asked where exactly the pipeline will go and what they want to have in an agreement.

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