Travis County judge dismisses pipeline lawsuit

A Travis County District Judge Tuesday dismissed litigation aimed at halting Kinder Morgan’s $2 billion, 420-mile Permian Highway Pipeline (PHP).

According to multiple reports, Travis County District Judge Lora Livingston dismissed all claims within the suit, which included an injunction meant to stop the routing process of the PHP. The suit also sought for the Texas Railroad Commission (TRC), which oversees the oil and natural gas industry in the state, to provide more oversight on the routing process for natural gas pipelines.

However, Livingston ruled the Texas Legislature doesn’t grant the TRC authority to oversee the eminent domain process. Additionally, Livingston ruled gas utility companies do not receive eminent domain powers by completing an application, which was an argument made by plaintiffs.

Eminent domain “flows to the gas utilities” through the Texas Constitution and the Legislature, Livingston said in her ruling.

Livingston also granted Kinder Morgan’s May 7 request for a summary judgement to dismiss the suit.

Livingston’s ruling comes nearly a month after a hearing on the lawsuit, which was held in the 261st District Court in Austin. That hearing involved TRC and Kinder Morgan officials, who were defendants in the case, as well as plaintiffs, which included Kyle and Hays County officials and local landowners.

At the center of the hearing was Kinder Morgan’s PHP, a 42-inch proposed underground natural gas pipeline that will run from far west Texas to the Houston area. The proposed pipeline is projected to cut through the Texas Hill Country and through Hays County.

Numerous jurisdictions, including Kyle, Buda, Wimberley, Blanco, Fredericksburg and Lockhart, as well as Hays and Gillsepie county officials, have approved resolutions opposing the PHP.

In a statement, Tom Martin, president of Natural Gas Pipelines for Kinder Morgan, said Kinder Morgan is “very pleased” with Tuesday’s ruling.

“The court’s findings validate the process established in Texas for the development of natural gas utility projects, as well as the steps we have taken to comply with that process,” Martin said in a statement. “We will continue to engage all stakeholders as we work to complete the PHP.”

Officials with the Texas Real Estate Advocacy and Defense (TREAD) Coalition, which has supported landowners who filed suit against the PHP, said they respect but disagree with Livingston’s ruling.

“We continue to believe the Texas constitution does not allow for the delegation of this awesome power to a private company without oversight,” according to the statement. “We are weighing our options for an appeal and planning additional legal actions in out venues to challenge this severely problematic route.”

Kyle Mayor Travis Mitchell said the ruling is “unfortunate,” but was not unexpected.

“We’re going to keep up the fight and regroup and figure out our next options,” Mitchell said. “We’re going to continue advocating for our communities.”

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