Group Sues Over TX Permian Highway Pipeline
Hill Country, Texas, landowners, along with City of Kyle officials and Hays County, recently filed a lawsuit against Kinder Morgan Texas Pipeline and the Railroad Commission in regard to the company’s proposed $2 billion Permian Highway Pipeline, citing that the state agency responsible for oil and gas regulation and eminent domain needed to be challenged. The group is asking a judge to put a stop to construction.
The 19-page lawsuit, which was also filed against five agency executives and a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan, was filed in state District Court in Travis County last Monday (April 22).
In September 2018, Kinder Morgan, along with EagleClaw Midstream Ventures, a portfolio company of Blackstone Energy Partners, announced the decision to proceed with the Permian Highway pipeline. Shippers attached to the project include: EagleClaw, Apache Corporation and XTO Energy Inc., a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil, as well as others. Kinder Morgan and EagleClaw were the initial partners, each with 50 percent ownership of the project.
Civil and environmental surveys, which also began in September 2018, are set to conclude in June of this year. Construction is slated to begin in the fall, with an in-service date set for late 2020. An estimated 2,500 construction jobs and 18 full-time ongoing positions, available once construction is completed, will be created as a result of the pipeline.
The pipeline will carry 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas daily over 423 miles of 42-inch pipeline, running from the Coyanosa, Texas, area to Gulf Coast markets. According to Kinder Morgan, KMTP will both build and operate the pipeline.
In March, the San Marcos city council announced plans to oppose the development of the pipeline, requesting action from both houses of the Texas Legislature in protecting landowners and their rights, along with communities.
“We’re opposed to the pipeline because of the effects to the groundwater and the spring systems of this region,” said Ashley Waymyth, managing director for the Wimberley Watershed Association. “We’ve been working for the past 23 years to protect the water and the land of the Hill Country, so this pipeline directly conflicts our interests.”
Waymyth noted that the association had spoken to Kinder Morgan through landowners, and though the company had scheduled meetings to engage with Hill Country, the company had also canceled these meetings. At the time, Kinder Morgan consultant Greg Neil requested that the council deny the resolution.
Pipeline opponents allege that the Railroad Commission is allowing the project to move through residential areas in Kyle, a location that is also near the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park in Stonewall. According to the Houston Chronicle, legal fees are being covered by the Texas Real Estate Advocacy and Defense Coalition, a nonprofit dedicated to representing landowners.
Five agency executives—Chairman Christi Craddick, Commissioner Ryan Sitton, Commissioner Wayne Christian, Executive Director Wei Wang and Pipeline Safety Director Kari French—were also named in the lawsuit. Though Railroad Commission officials declined to provide comment to the Chronicle, the publication notes that the agency is only authorized to oversee rates and safety issues regarding pipelines within state boundaries, not deal with eminent domain.
"As important as the oil and gas industry is to Texas, they are the only private industry in the state with the power to take someone's land without a governmental hearing process," said Walt Smith, Hays County Commissioner. "These companies currently enjoy a privilege that is only granted to governmental entities. They should be held to the same standards of accountability and oversight. It's as simple as that."
According to Texas law, pipelines that carry product for other companies fall under “common carrier” status, which includes the ability to implement eminent domain. Currently, pipeline operators in the state only have to file a report with the Commission 30 days prior to construction beginning.
Kinder Morgan CEO Steve Kean noted that those opposed to the project wanted to move the route to north of Austin or south of San Antonio. Such a move would cause further issues with more landowners. Kean added that the company had already made 150 revisions to route plans to address concerns.