The fight over Kinder Morgan’s proposed 430-mile Permian Highway Pipeline has now reached Hays County’s courthouse.
On Feb. 26, Hays County Commissioners approved by a unanimous 5-0 vote a resolution opposing the Permian Highway Pipeline, a $2 billion project that is expected to cut through Hays County. Passage of the resolution follows a similar action taken by Kyle city leaders and officials in mid-February.
Lon Shell, Hays County Pct. 3 Commissioner, said his personal concerns include environmental issues, which are “very real,” as well as private property rights of residents, which is “extremely important to Texans and the county.”
Shell said the county takes eminent domain issues very seriously and has never had to use the tactic for any project.
Kinder Morgan, a Houston-based company, is using eminent domain proceedings in order to acquire land needed to install its underground pipeline, which will extend from far west Texas to the Houston area. Eminent domain is the process where governmental and private entities force the sale of private land for public use.
A lack of outreach on the part of Kinder Morgan officials, especially with public officials and government entities, was also one of Shell’s largest issues. Shell said he has spoken with Kinder Morgan officials “several times” and has tried to get them to attend a commissioners court meeting to address public questions.
While Kinder Morgan has hosted open houses regarding its pipeline, Shell said more could be done. He cited the county’s recent outreach efforts on FM 150, which could encompass more than 15 years of public participation before it is completed.
Pct. 1 Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe said protecting homeowners on the east side of Interstate 35 impacted by the project is just as important as preserving natural resources. Four Kyle area subdivisions could be in close proximity to the pipeline.
Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra said he is against the pipeline in its current route.
However, Becerra didn’t think closing the door on Kinder Morgan was prudent. Becerra said the county shouldn’t invest in possible litigation, but “explore other avenues.”
Possible options include Kinder Morgan funding an independent hydrology and economic impact study with local commission and environmental group oversight. Becerra said there is a “lot of money being left out of the conversation” if the county moves through “as things are.”
Shell, however, said he is not at a negotiating stage with Kinder Morgan at this point.
“We have the opportunity to negotiate a process with a volume of product moving through these lines that can benefit us if we take that route,” Becerra said. “I’m against the pipeline. I don’t want to mince words. But I am here to help negotiate for the best interests of Hays County within the confines of the law.”
During public comment, residents and landowners maintained their stance against Kinder Morgan, citing the environmental and economic impacts the proposed project could bring.
Resident John Price said the pipeline is not “in the public’s interest,” and worried about the impact the pipeline could have on the Edwards Aquifer.
Larry Becker, a Wimberley area landowner who said he could be impacted by the proposed line, worried about plans for the pipeline to go under the Blanco River twice on its current route.
Price said the pipeline would introduce the county to an industry “I don’t believe we want to see.”
“This scares me and I hope it scares you, because once it’s in, the aquifer in essence, dies,” Price said. “We have the ability to do whatever we can to stop it. This is a travesty in the first place, the company trying to ruin the lives of millions.