Blanco landowner concerned about stormwater runoff from Kinder Morgan pipeline construction

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Following severe weather in Central Texas Friday night into Saturday morning, a Blanco landowner said her property has continued to be impacted by runoff from nearby construction of Kinder Morgan’s Permian Highway Pipeline. The pipeline will be 42 inches wide and is slated to travel from Waha in West Texas to the Katy area, passing through the Hill Country.

Myra Corbett, who lives on a property in Blanco, told KXAN Saturday morning that she has continued to see mud and runoff from the pipeline construction effort that cuts through her property. Corbett and her husband moved to this property more than three years ago where they have a guest cabin they rent out as well as ostriches, zebras, donkeys, wildebeest and gazelles.

An ostrich struts across Myra Corbett’s property. (KXAN Photo/ Alyssa Goard).

Corbett was one of two Blanco property owners who spoke with KXAN on Friday, expressing concerns about runoff that had come from Kinder Morgan’s construction to their properties. Both of these landowners said they had filed complaints with the Texas Railroad Commission — the state agency in Texas which regulates pipelines — believing pipeline company Kinder Morgan didn’t do enough to control erosion. While the other landowner told KXAN that Kinder Morgan representatives came by to check his property after Friday’s weather and that the barriers they placed had held up, Corbett feels the runoff on her property actually got worse with the weather.

On Corbett’s land in Blanco, a pond is situated in the middle of a grassy expanse nearby a gazebo where here Airbnb guests like to go.

After rains earlier in the week, Corbett said she had noticed, “runoff had come into the pond and it went from a beautiful, clear, blue pond to an ugly muddy one.”

The pond on Myra Corbett’s property has been muddied. She believes runoff from the nearby Kinder Morgan Permian Highway Pipeline construction site is to blame. (KXAN Photo/Alyssa Goard).

She said Kinder Morgan employees came by and installed straw bales on her property to prevent further erosion near the pipeline a few days ago.

“This morning it was even worse than a couple days ago before it rained,” she said Saturday.

“I hate to see the pond like this, it grieves me, instead of the beautiful clear water, you see this,” she said gesturing to the muddied pond.

Prior to Kinder Morgan’s construction work, she said the pond would never get muddied to the degree it is now. Corbett doesn’t like the look of it and fears the renters who come to vacation at her cabin won’t like it either.

Even beyond the look of the mud coming onto her property, she worries what other impacts this pipeline construction may have on her land, her animals and her family. Corbett is concerned that the netting around the pipeline construction on her property isn’t sturdy enough either.

Myra Corbett said Kinder Morgan installed straw bales on her property to prevent erosion from the Permian Highway Pipeline Construction site. (KXAN Photo/ Alyssa Goard).

“I just don’t totally believe it would have no impact if there was an event,” she said of the pipeline, expressing additional concern with the potential impacts of the pipeline for those who use the Edwards Aquifer as a water source.

Kinder Morgan’s Vice President of Public Affairs, Allen Fore, told KXAN Saturday that his company has been working with individual landowners in Blanco County to make improvements to the erosion control devices already in place on their properties. Fore said that by Saturday, the company will have followed up with Corbett’s property to make improvements as well.

“If we know a particular area is of concern, via landowner attention or concern, or calls that we may get or postings on social media, or whatever it may be, we could certainly dispatch our folks to those areas,” Fore said. He also noted that the company has been in communication with the Railroad Commission regarding the complaints about runoff spreading to Blanco County properties.

A gate blocks off the construction work on the Permian Highway Pipeline in Blanco at Myra Corbett’s property. KXAN Photo/ Alyssa Goard.

“We know that weather continues to be an issue in the area with heavy rains and these rains that come really hard over a very short period of time,” he continued. “And we want to be sure our erosion control methods recognize that.”

As far as the pipeline’s overall construction, Fore explained that the project is still on schedule to be complete by early 2021. In fact, he noted, that around one hundred miles of pipeline on the western portion of the project have already been completed and placed in the ground.

Fore explained that Blanco County plays a “critical” role for the pipeline with a great deal of construction happening there and a pipe yard being located in the county. The Permian Highway Pipeline is estimated to be $2 billion for the gas companies involved to carry out the project. This pipeline will be designed to move as much as 2.1 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas.

Permian Highway Pipeline construction site on Myra Corbett’s property. (KXAN Photo/ Alyssa Goard)

Meanwhile, Corbett shares that she wishes this pipeline wouldn’t be constructed at all.

“It’s a place where you have beautiful rolling hills, with all of its waterways and like I said, who in their right mind said, ‘lets put a pipeline through here?'” Corbett said incredulously, looking around her property as her ostrich pecked at her affectionately.

Ever since the pipeline’s route was announced in 2018, Kinder Morgan has faced opposition from landowners, organizations and local governments about the implications of the pipeline – both in regards to Kinder Morgan’s authority to exercise eminent domain and in regards to the environmental implications of the pipeline itself.

Because the Permian Highway Pipeline travels only through the state of Texas, it is not subject to as many regulations as a pipeline that crosses state lines.

Muddy water pools in a pit at the Permian Highway Pipeline construction site in Blanco. (KXAN Photo/ Alyssa Goard).

As KXAN previously reported, the Texas Railroad Commission issued a notice of violation to Kinder Morgan after a drilling accident in the Blanco River in March. The pause in construction is only limited to that site.

KXAN has asked the Railroad Commission about the runoff complaints against Kinder Morgan from Blanco County and whether the company would receive an additional violation notice for runoff there. In response to our questions, a spokesperson for the Texas Railroad Commission sent the following statement:

“Protecting public safety and the environment are the RRC’s highest priorities and we have rules in place for that critical mission. Railroad Commission rules are specific to the prevention of pollution resulting from stormwater runoff. Operators conducting oil or natural gas pipeline construction activities are required by Commission rules to prevent the pollution of surface and groundwater resources. Towards that end, operators should implement best practices during the entire construction process to minimize storm water runoff that may cause the pollution of surface and ground water resources.

We inspect construction activities and those inspections ensure operations are conducted in compliance with RRC rules. The Commission takes appropriate actions against violations that result in pollution that affects the public’s health and safety.”

R.J. DeSilva, Communications Director, Railroad Commission of Texas

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