KYLE, Texas (KXAN) — In the early hours of Saturday morning, Kyle City Council approved a settlement with Houston-based company Kinder Morgan over the Permian Highway Pipeline. The settlement was approved in a 5 to 2 vote. Under the agreement, Kinder Morgan will pay $2.7 million to the city of Kyle and will guarantee that they will not pump crude oil through the entirety of the Permian Highway Pipeline.

The agreement not to pump crude oil was something Kinder Morgan had said but never contractually agreed to previously, said Kyle Mayor Travis Mitchell.

The settlement also requires Kinder Morgan to help with alleviating conflicts between the pipeline and infrastructure projects in the city.

“The question before our council has been how to leverage our limited city resources to carry this fight against an opponent with virtually unlimited resources,” said Mitchell in the statement. “We believe that this settlement agreement represents a better outcome than what we could have expected in a long and drawn out, and expensive, legal battle.”

Now that this vote has happened, the settlement agreement will be made public, the city said. You can download the settlement in the file below.

In exchange, Kinder Morgan will be allowed to construct the pipeline through the boundaries of the city of Kyle.

“To be clear, this settlement has nothing to do with re-routing the pipeline out of the Hill Country,” said Travis Mitchell, Mayor, City of Kyle in a statement from the city. “We still share in the concerns of thousands in our community who fear the impacts of the PHP on our safety and our environment. Settling this case has no bearing on those risks, which would have remained in full force either way.”

Mitchell went on to say that this settlement agreement offers protections to the city that otherwise would not be granted by current state and federal laws.

The council met for nearly six hours Friday to finalize the agreement.

Kyle City Council Member Alex Villalobos was one of the two “no” votes against this settlement agreement, he explained that he is still very concerned about the implications of this pipeline from an economic standpoint.

“I still don’t agree that the amount of money that is being proposed is enough to address the safety concerns that we do have,” Villalobos said to the council. “I feel like we are in a position that is completely of disadvantage, I still don’t see the best but I see that we’ve made the best of a situation that we could.”

He expressed worry that businesses like Kinder Morgan can move forward with pipeline construction “with very little regulation and very little accountability.”

The 430-mile pipeline is slated to be constructed through the city of Kyle. Kinder Morgan has told KXAN in previous interviews that the city of Kyle would be the most populous community along the entire route of the pipeline.

After postponements and heated legal battles, this vote marks a reluctant acquiescence by the city of Kyle to the construction of this natural gas pipeline under their city.

On September 17, the council voted to authorize a framework of a settlement with Kinder Morgan over the pipeline. The vote on Friday night would be the final approval.

Permian Highway Pipeline_Overview Map from Kinder Morgan
Permian Highway Pipeline Overview Map from Kinder Morgan in May 2019.

Before the council went into executive session, one resident spoke to the council with some concerns.

Kyle resident Peter Parcher expressed some concerns he’d emailed to the council about their negotiations with Kinder Morgan. He hopes that the council will take his concerns seriously.

Parcher explains that while he has concerns, under the right circumstances he could be supportive of a settlement with Kinder Morgan.

“I think that if the conditions of the settlement include ensuring the safety of citizens and fair treatment of landowners and if they come out with their safety precautions, I think that would be a good idea rather than going through some serious and costly litigation,” Parcher said.

Parcher doesn’t live in the area near where the pipeline would go in but has been talking to people who do. He says the people he’s been speaking with have been disappointed about the lack of communication from the city about what exactly is being negotiated with Kinder Morgan.

Parcher has a message he wants to get across to the council:

“We are watching,” he said. “We in Kyle care about our city, we may be a small city but we care about it and how we are perceived by other communities around us.”

The pipeline has sparked fear and frustration from some landowners, environmental groups, and local governments, citing both environmental concerns and worries about the authority of Kinder Morgan to set the pipeline route and exercise eminent domain.

Since the announcement of the pipeline route, there have been numerous lawsuits and legal challenges related to its construction. One such lawsuit filed by the City of Kyle, Hays Co., and landowners was dismissed by a Travis County District Court Judge in June.

Kinder Morgan has also filed a lawsuit against the City of Kyle after the city passed an ordinance on July 2 requiring — among other things — greater depth requirements for pipeline construction passing through the city.

A Kinder Morgan map of the intended route of the Permian Highway Pipeline through Hays County. Map from Kinder Morgan dated May of 2019.

Hays County and Travis Audobon Society have filed a notice of intent to sue Kinder Morgan, the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The notice calls for a full, independent environmental impact study. It also claims Kinder Morgan did not obtain the necessary federal permits to work near endangered species like the golden-cheeked warbler and sensitive environmental features like the Edwards Aquifer.

Kinder Morgan, the company constructing the pipeline, has separated this Permian Highway Pipeline into five sections and the company told KXAN in September that the western phase near Midland has already started preliminary construction. Construction on the Hill Country portion of the pipeline has not begun yet.

A map of the potential pathway of the proposed Permian Highway Pipeline across the Edwards Aquifer in Hays County. Image from the August 28 memo from the City of Austin Watershed Protection Department.

KXAN’s Alyssa Goard will be covering developments from Kyle City Hall Friday night.