Pipeline town hall meeting stirs emotion from Hill Country residents

Hill Country

BLANCO, Texas (KXAN) — In most capacities, the 466,000-plus miles of pipeline that crisscross Texas carry gas in some form or another. The spaghetti network of tubes go from shale plays to distribution hubs along the coast and back to shale plays.  

So what could one more pipeline hurt oil-and-gas-rich Texas? 

If you ask the more than 100 people who came to a town hall meeting about a new pipeline in Blanco, Texas, they could tell you it would cost them everything.  

For years, the Permian Highway Pipeline has been in planning phases, and now it moving to the construction phase. The cost: $2 billion. The width: 42” in diameter. The cargo: natural gas. The destination: a hub outside of Houston. The path: right in the heart of the Texas Hill Country.  

“One of my main concerns is why does a private, for-profit company has the right to not only take my land but endanger my life by being so close to my house?” says Stefan Roesch, a landowner who lives near Blanco whose land could be partitioned to Kinder Morgan, the pipeline company.

Roesch’s home would be a few hundred feet from where the pipeline could be built. He’s worried that any accident or anything that damages the pipeline once it’s carrying its cargo could result in a blast that could incinerate his home.  

“Going south just seems like the easy way to go,” Roesch said.

To it’s credit, the PHP has managed to do one thing: unite people. The most conservative of conservatives and the most liberal of liberals do not want the pipeline to come anywhere near them, nor the Hill Country.  

The town hall meeting was not attended by anyone from Kinder Morgan (at least, no one there would admit to representing KM), but there was one who did voice support for the project — sort of. A man took the opportunity to ask the panel made of one county commissioner, a member of the Hill Country Alliance, a groundwater conservation board member and a former city official with The City of Austin who is familiar with pipelines if there was some good to the project.

He was not well received by the crowd.  

“We were blessed by God Almighty to live in this Hill Country and we need to be good stewards of this land, and that is something that Kinder Morgan can take to the bank,” says Kay Pence, another landowner who could lose some of her land to the project. Pence wanted to make people aware she is not related to the vice president.  

The pipeline is set to cross the Blanco River two times, skirt other streams and creeks in the Hill Country – all while carrying natural gas. Oil and gas experts say pipelines, while notorious when there’s an incident involving them, are still safer than transporting the material via truck or rail. Still, environmentalists from the Hill Country Alliance raised concerns about the PHP routed over the Edwards and Trinity Aquifer – where San Antonio, Austin and a host of over cities get their drinking water.

In a statement from Kinder Morgan exclusive to KXAN, a representative said:  

This route is a good one, and we selected it for several reasons … minimal impacts to environmentally sensitive areas, fewer landowner impacts, and multiple interconnections with other pipelines. We’ve made several route adjustments – more than 150 already – to accommodate requests from interested parties, and we’re pleased to be making progress toward achieving multiple stakeholders’ goals on this project. 
 
Pipelines continue to be the safest mode of energy transportation. Rather than rail or trucking, pipelines are underground, out of sight, reliable and efficient. They are the ideal mode of transportation for long-haul transportation services. 

Construction for the pipeline is set to start this fall and will be in service by late 2020. 

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