Local landowners 1, Kinder Morgan 1.
That’s the feeling among many in the Hill Country who are keeping score in the ongoing battle between the Houston-based energy firm and those fighting its planned 42-inch, 420-mile Permian Highway Pipeline (PHP).
While a Blanco County commission’s decision to award an area landowner $233,500 for the impact the PHP will have on his land doesn’t seem like much, you get the impression that it sets a precedent for those trying to fight the firm’s quest to obtain private land for public use.
If Kinder Morgan officials have to shell out close to a quarter-million dollars for this case, one of the first condemnation cases to come up in the Hill Country, they might have to dig a little deeper into their pockets to complete the eminent domain process, something that’s caused an immense amount of heartburn locally.
Granted, the case is far from over. Kinder Morgan is planning to fight the decision, which they said was preliminary, and take it to the appellate court. Keep your eyes peeled for an update.
Perhaps the greater concern is the seemingly false front Kinder Morgan takes when it comes to these condemnation hearings.
Kinder Morgan officials will say that the decision was isolated and that more than half of the land needed for this project has already been acquired. Officials also allege they don’t low ball property owners for access to their land.
The more than 1,000% difference between what Kinder Morgan allegedly appraised the impact the pipeline could have on the landowner’s property versus what the commission decided tells a far different story.
It shows just how many property owners might have succumbed to Kinder Morgan’s bullying tactics and took a lower settlement, all because they might not have access to adequate legal representation?
Getting to the truth of the matter (more specifically the numbers associated with this particular case) is something that might not be accessible for the public or the media.
Officials with Kinder Morgan won’t comment on the financials of any condemnation case as they claim it’s confidential.
Sorry, but there’s nothing confidential about this process now.
It’s that lack of transparency that should rub people the wrong way when it comes to this proposed pipeline.
Kinder Morgan has been the target of litigation and opposition from municipalities and governments who allege the pipeline company was never fully honest from the start about the scope of the PHP.
So why should the lying stop now?
While we’re at it, Kinder Morgan’s attempt to be good community partners based on an increased amount of visibility in areas impacted by their pipeline feels to many like a wolf donning a wool jacket.
Contrary to popular belief, visibility does not equal transparency.
Answering questions as honestly as possible makes for much better community relations, whether it’s dealing with landowners’ properties or how this project could impact the ecosystem in the long and short term.
Quite frankly, the general public deserves, and rightfully should demand, better from Kinder Morgan. That demand also extends to a handful of lawmakers who support the oil and gas industry, but also tend to forget about that thing called property rights.
Changes need to be made on that level, but will take some time.
In the interim, Kinder Morgan can do itself a favor by doing one thing.
Just tell the truth.