Hill Country pipeline opponents are taking Kinder Morgan to court

Hays

KYLE, Texas (KXAN) — For months, a handful of towns and counties in the Hill Country have passed formal opposition to the Permian Highway Pipeline — a pipeline set to carry natural gas from West Texas, through the Hill Country, to a hub near Katy. 

On Tuesday, Hays County Commissioners and the Kyle City Council stepped up their efforts to combat the project, and unanimously opted to take Kinder Morgan and the Texas Railroad Commission to court over the project and the oversight — or lack thereof.  

“The challenge is that while they are engaging the community, the process they are following has no oversight,” said Kyle Mayor Travis Mitchell. “And the city actually has no ability to negotiate in good faith.”

Should the pipeline come to fruition, it will run within one mile of Kyle. 

The overall proposed route calls for the pipeline to run over the Edwards Aquifer Recharge zone and some of the Trinity Aquifer watershed. 

But the environmental concerns were not mentioned by the mayor. 

“They can come right thought the city of Kyle without so much as a public hearing or an environmental impact study and their only responsibility is to their shareholders — and that’s not the way it should be.”

Kinder Morgan, the company building the pipeline, has eminent domain powers since it is deemed to be a utility company. Texas law allows for utility companies to have such leverage over landowners. For months, Kinder Morgan has been discussing routes with landowners in the Hill Country and allocated land for the project. 

“We think the process needs to change,” said Mitchell. 

The attorney fees for the suit will not come from taxpayer dollars — rather from the Texas Real Estate Advocacy and Defense Coalition (TREAD). 

In a statement sent to KXAN, Kinder Morgan said: 

“We do not have a comment on their actions and there have not been any lawsuits filed to our knowledge. We have conducted extensive outreach to local landowners and other stakeholders.  As a result of this outreach, we have made approximately 150 adjustments to the route. Additionally, we believe that two main points continue to be overlooked – the purpose of eminent domain and the economic benefits of the state.

·         Eminent domain ensures that no single landowner can block energy infrastructure that benefits the general public and greater good. Through court proceedings, landowners are compensated using fair market value for the easement on their property.  This is a time honored process that is rarely used due to a history of successfully negotiated settlements. 

·         Monetary contributions from this project will result in $42 million in annual tax revenues once PHP is in service.  The state will also gain approximately $885 million in annual gas and oil production taxes.  Combined – that’s approximately $927 million in taxes each year to the state of Texas.  For leaseholders, an additional $2.24 billion will be provided through oil and natural gas royalties. 

Last week, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that cuts through some red tape for energy and utility companies to build pipelines.

Despite this, the City of Kyle, and its mayor will take their chances in court against Kinder Morgan. 

“We don’t intend to lose,” Mitchell said.

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