By Moses Leos III and Katie Burrell
Weeks after passing resolutions opposing Kinder Morgan’s Permian Highway Pipeline, Kyle and Hays County Tuesday formally became plaintiffs in a multi-party lawsuit against the Houston-based energy firm.
Kyle city leaders tossed their hats into the fray when they joined the lawsuit via a 6-0 vote Tuesday. Earlier in the day, Hays County Commissioners voted 5-0 to become a party in the litigation.
Additional plaintiffs in the suit, expected to be filed in the next several days, includes the Texas Real Estate Advocacy and Defense (TREAD) Coalition, a non-profit landowner advocacy group, Andrew Sansom, as well as Scott and Linda Nance. Plaintiffs will be represented by Richards Rodriguez & Keith LLP and the Law Office of Max Renea Hicks. According to documents, the state and the Texas Railroad Commission (TRC), as well as Kinder Morgan, are expected to be named as opposing parties in the litigation, which is being filed based on the constitutionality of “private pipeline eminent domain authority.”
Hays County Pct. 3 Commissioner Lon Shell said the state “can do better” when it comes to the eminent domain process and that all parties have to “work together to find a better way for these things to happen.”
“This is about property rights, specifically of our citizens and residents in Texas,” Shell said. “I think Texas can do better than what we’re doing right now with these projects. It’s not anything personal, but I think we can do better.”
Litigation against Kinder Morgan comes after multiple cities across Central Texas have approved resolutions opposing the project, which is expected to cut through most of the Hill Country. The Permian Highway Pipeline is a $2 billion, 42-inch, 430-mile underground natural gas pipeline that is expected to start in west Texas and end near Houston. Kinder Morgan officials anticipate the pipeline becoming operational by late 2020.
Plans for the project has led to outcry from various landowners, as well as cities and jurisdictions which are concerned about the pipeline’s impact on the area.
On Monday, the city of Fredericksburg passed a resolution opposing the pipeline, according a Fredericksburg Standard Radio-Post report.
Fredericksburg joins Kyle, Buda, Wimberley in approving resolutions against the project. Other entities opposed include Hays and Gillespie county commisisoners, as well as the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD) and Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (HTGCD).
Walt Smith, Hays County Pct. 4 Commissioner, said commissioners were “comfortable” with their decision to join in the lawsuit, which they said they didn’t take lightly.
“We wanted to ensure to our citizenry and to ourselves is that we felt like the options that were out there were being pursued,” Smith said. “We did our due diligence.”
Elyse Yates, TREAD spokesperson, said the organization is “really glad” cities are willing to step out and “get a solution to the pipeline routing in Texas,” and to advocate for more oversight on the process.
“Counties and cities should have a place at the table as the routes of something as big and disruptive as the pipeline is being decided,” Yates said.