Kyle-area residents packed Wallace Middle School to press Kinder Morgan on the company’s proposed 430-mile underground natural gas pipeline.
But the open house, hosted by Kinder Morgan officials, left some residents with more questions than answers.
Kinder Morgan representatives met with residents at different stations with a presentation on the logistics of the pipeline.
Martha Pinto, a resident of Hays County who lives between Wimberley and Kyle, said the proposed pipeline could be detrimental to the environment and identity of the Hill Country.
“I am so angry about this pipeline and what it means to the citizens of Hays County, going through one of the most pristine areas of Texas,” Pinto said. “This pipeline will cut through our county so Kinder Morgan can transport natural gas to the coast and export it so they can make money.”
Pinto said there are no environmental benefits to the pipeline, which in her mind, outweighs any economic impact to the state.
Pinto said the state does not protect its citizens from corporations who receive eminent domain status.
“It is unthinkable that they could drill through this beautiful, pristine land, for profit, that does not benefit us,” Pinto said. “I appreciated being able to speak with the project manager on this project, but I’m not convinced.”
State Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood) was one of numerous public officials who attended the meeting. Also in attendance were Kyle City Council members and Hays County Commissioners.
Zwiener criticized the process of eminent domain, which she believes gives power to corporations and out of the hands of the people. While she was glad Kinder Morgan hosted an open house, Zwiener said it is clear how insufficient the current process is in Texas when granting eminent domain to pipelines.
Zwiener called for a more transparent process when the state allows corporations to take land from private citizens.
Under current guidelines, energy infrastructure companies do not have to host forums or open discussion during the process, which has been highly criticized by local officials.
“The legislature made some choices in the past that stacked the deck in the favor these private companies,” Zwiener said. “Infrastructure is important, but I hope my colleagues and I can make some positive changes to this process, so our communities have a voice.”
Energy companies are currently required to submit a T-4 form to the Texas Railroad Commission stating if the pipeline is a common carrier. The process does not involve oversight or approval from an entity.
Zwiener said this “check-the-box” system must change.
“The state is not involved at all in the routing of the pipeline, and that occurs in a corporate board room without any public voices there,” Zwiener said. “I have been in contact with Kinder Morgan officials and asked, ‘Why now, why here?’ All I’ve been told is there are multiple factors.”
Allen Fore, Kinder Morgan Vice President, addressed claims the company can change the type of fossil fuel transported in the pipeline instantaneously once the project is on the ground, as ludicrous.
“It’s absurd. It’s a lie and completely false,” Fore said. “We have longterm contracts on this system to transport natural gas. That’s why we are building this. You design these pipes to transport one product, and that’s the only use you plan to have for that pipeline.”
Fore said engineering and infrastructure for the pipeline is specifically designed for natural gas, and not for liquid-based fossil fuels. If the company chose to transport a different type of energy, it would cost the company millions of dollars and take years to change the integrity of the pipeline.
“From a commercial perspective, that’s why we’ve invested $2 billion in this project committed to the long-term transport of natural gas,” Fore said. “Not to have some ‘hopscotch, wonder what we’re going to transport tomorrow’ kind of process.”
He said the pipeline, as designed and engineered, physically cannot transport other types of fossil fuels. Kinder Morgan would have to retrofit the system, build pump stations, de-commission the other stations. The permitting change alone would take years, Fore said.
“What the infrastructure has been able to give this country, is the ability to be energy independent and that helps workers, the economy and the tax base,” Fore said. “That’s the big picture. But what’s equally important is the individual land owner who has concerns…we are in the business of doing things right. We lead in the industry with our safety record, and our people live and work in Texas. We have an investment in this from a company and human perspective.”