By Steve Everley, Texans for Natural Gas
A planned natural gas pipeline that will cross part of the Hill Country has been the focus of a considerable amount of discussion in recent months. As with any infrastructure project, local citizens have raised questions and concerns about the Permian Highway Pipeline. While many of these are understandable, some of the more alarming accusations from pipeline opponents – which also happen to be garnering the most media attention – are simply not supported by the evidence.
For example, some opponents have declared that pipelines do not belong in the Hill Country. What you might not know is that there are already more than 810 miles of existing underground pipelines in the region. The fact that these lines have not generated news is actually news itself: Hill Country pipelines operate safely. Achieving that level of safety with minimal intrusion into the community’s daily operations is a testament to how pipeline companies operate in the Hill Country.
If we already have existing pipelines moving natural gas safely over and around local aquifers, it follows that this is not an existential threat to the water supply, as the opponents suggest.
Certainly concerns about local water quality should be taken seriously. No one wants polluted water. But it’s also true that no one wants to be unnecessarily alarmed about risks to his or her community.
Many of the concerns about potential impacts to water presume that the Permian Highway Pipeline will be transporting oil. But this is a natural gas pipeline. The landowner leases and the multitude of permits and approvals from federal and state regulators are all based on the pipeline transporting natural gas. Any change to that would require the developer to restart the entire approval process, which could take months or even years.
Pipeline opponents have also used pictures of massive explosions like in a Hollywood action movie, all to suggest the same alarming scene could come to the Hill Country. Once again, inflating the risk for the PHP using images that have no relationship to the project only serve to needlessly incite fear among local residents.
Finally, many opponents are suggesting this project isn’t in our interest because Texas is now exporting record volumes of natural gas. The implication is that if we’re exporting a product, then any infrastructure that supports it only serves the interests of end users in other countries, while we only shoulder the costs and risks. Imagine applying that logic to Texas farmers, who rely on export markets and international trade. Or American-made vehicles exported to our trading partners, or the advanced manufacturing processes that produce computer chips used in machines around the world. We rightly support and even encourage these projects in the United States, because they serve not just an abstract notion of the national interest, but also the local communities that host the production facilities and transport networks.
Last year, Texas ran a $2 billion trade surplus with Mexico. Laredo recently became the country’s largest trading port, thanks in large part to increased energy exports from Texas. It wasn’t too long ago that we were concerned about over-reliance on imported energy. We’ve flipped that equation, thanks in large part to places like the Permian Basin and our ability to connect the energy produced there to end users, domestically and abroad.
Pipelines are the safest means of transporting natural gas, and critical infrastructure projects like the Permian Highway Pipeline represent the best way to expand the benefits of the Texas energy boom to as many residents as possible.
Steve Everley is a spokesman for Texans for Natural Gas.