SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — The Hays County commissioners court passed a new policy on Tuesday that would require Kinder Morgan to follow certain rules before getting their utility permits back.

The permits would allow Kinder Morgan to bore underneath Hays County roads while installing its Permian Highway Pipeline.

This comes one week after commissioners voted to rescind Kinder Morgan’s road permits over concerns of another drilling accident, like the one in Blanco County on March 28.

According to its policy, the county took away the permits “in reaction to the contamination in Blanco County, knowing that Kinder Morgan’s activities in similar karst formations in Hays County present the same dangers to groundwater supply for Hays County residents.”

The permits were originally granted to the company in July of 2019.

Under the new rules, Kinder Morgan will not be allowed to receive a utility permit until the following conditions are met:

  • Kinder Morgan must present Hays County with a geological analysis, highlighting karst and/or aquifer recharge features.
  • If karst features are found on the construction path by either Kinder Morgan’s analysis or the analysis of a Hays County representative, the company must “create a plan to ensure that their activities will not negatively impact the karst features or groundwater quality.”

    “We will review it and get assistance from geologists including assistance form our groundwater conservation districts.  If there are concerns with any of the areas KM intends to bore, KM could be required to change how they will construct the pipeline in that area,” Commissioner Lon Shell wrote in an email to KXAN News.
  • Kinder Morgan must present a schedule of the boring operations to the Hays County Director of Transportation and “all residential well owners within a 2 mile radius of each bore by certified mail, at least five (5) days before boring begins.”
  • The notice should also include Kinder Morgan’s mitigation and monitoring plans that were submitted to the Railroad Commission after their violation notice from the incident in Blanco County “and/or any other plans requested by State or Federal regulatory authorities related to the incident in Blanco County.”
  • If a well owner complains of a change in water quality or quantity, water samples must be collected. Kinder Morgan can use its own experts but must also pay for analysis from either the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District or the Hays Trinity Conservation District. The results of all the analyses should then be given to well owners and county officials.
  • Before being issued a permit, Kinder Morgan has to agree to “remediate any negative impacts on the groundwater supply caused by its activities under the Utility Permit, as determined by the analysis of the Groundwater Conservation Districts after the analysis described, above.”

You can read Hays County’s full policy here.

Kinder Morgan’s vice president says he doesn’t see the new rules affecting the pipeline’s timeline, which is expected to be in service early 2021.

“It seems as though this is a pause — and those were Commissioner Shell’s words, a pause in the process, while we work through and make sure that these particular areas: What the crossing technique is, what the technology that’s being used is, the specifics of what’s underground so that they have that information,” says vice president Allen Fore.

He says that process may begin as soon as next week, but they are waiting for details from the county.

“I think once we see the specifics of the permitting requirements, it literally will be our engineers and others sitting down and going over point by point, we’re doing this or this is how we can do that, this is how we propose to do this,” Fore says.

Fore says boring has already been completed under two road crossings in Hays County, with three more to go.

He says boring means digging a hole eight to 10 feet under the road.

That’s different from horizontal drilling, he says, which goes 30-50 feet underground and is what they were doing in Blanco County.