KYLE, Texas (KXAN) — On Monday, the Kyle City Council voted to authorize a framework of a settlement with Kinder Morgan over the Permian Highway Pipeline, which has famously — or infamously — caused Hays County residents and local governments to level lawsuits against the pipeline company.
Kyle Mayor Travis Mitchell clarified that the settlement has not been finally approved. It won’t be for another two weeks until the city will have a hearing to discuss whether or not to settle.
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.
“It’s not a done deal til such a time that we vote on it,” Mitchell said. “So if we don’t vote on it or if we vote it down we will continue as if a settlement agreement never happened.”
Mitchell said that he can’t speak on the motivations for passing this framework.
Kinder Morgan previously filed a lawsuit against the city after it passed an ordinance requiring — among other things — greater depth requirements for pipeline construction passing through the city.
“We are still being sued, I have a lot of things I would like to say about what’s led to this,” Mitchell said. “At this time, I can’t speak on it.”
Mitchell says a lot of speculation that out about the issue is inaccurate.
“I think we’ve reached a really good compromise,” said Allen Fore, Kinder Morgan’s Vice President of Public Affairs.
“What the framework means [is that] we have general principles we agree on, then we need to define those as necessary by council on both sides,” Fore said. “Council will then need to come back and take a look at that and then I hope approve.”
Fore characterized the discussion as the City of Kyle being concerned about future development and Kinder Morgan “concerned about keeping our project on schedule.”
Kinder Morgan has said that the city of Kyle is the most populous area the pipeline will pass through.
The pipeline is scheduled to be operational by the fourth quarter of 2020, Kinder Morgan has said. The company has already begun construction on the portion of the pipeline in West Texas, as they have already obtained the necessary permits for that section. Kinder Morgan has not begun construction on the portion of the pipeline that is slated to run through the Hill Country.
Kinder Morgan said that they have reached agreements with approximately 70% of affected landowners across the entire pipeline route.
The Texas Real Estate Advocacy & Defense Coalition, who has worked with different groups and individuals who oppose the pipeline, sent KXAN the following statement in response to the settlement framework from the City of Kyle:
“We stand with Kyle as they attempt to bring Kinder Morgan to the table to address the concerns of their community. We have a deep admiration for all of the communities who have stood up for their citizens, particularly Kyle and Hays County, for staying the course. Local communities have stepped into the vacuum created by a lack of statewide oversight.
“This is exactly the reason Texas needs a real public process for oil and gas pipeline routing. Kyle is simply trying to stand up as a community to help mitigate real public safety concerns and to maintain a seat at the table. Instead of working cooperatively with Kyle, Kinder Morgan is using its army of lawyers to find a way around compliance.”
“We ask that people remember what’s really happening here. A corporation that likely has a larger legal budget than Kyle’s entire annual budget went after a small city – and its taxpayers – with an expensive lawsuit to crush a legitimate ordinance addressing local issues. All Kyle was asking was for them to bury their pipelines a little and work with them on existing city planning. Outspending a smaller opponent is a legal tactic that a company such as Kinder Morgan can use to hasten the process and make an example out of the City of Kyle to ward off similar resistance from other towns and cities across the state.”