By Anita Miller
Broad based revisions concerning regulations and permitting involving pipelines are thought to be part of changes made by Kyle city leaders to an existing ordinance.
However, the Hays Free Press was unable to review those changes as city officials withheld documentation relating to any possible revisions until print deadline.
On Sept. 9, the Kyle City Council voted 6-0 to “engage in discussion as discussed in executive session” relating to possible revisions of the city’s pipeline ordinance, which had been passed in June. However, city leaders did not discuss in open session what revisions were made.
The revisions broadly concern regulations and permitting involving pipelines and the city’s right-of-way, as well as roadway and utility infrastructure.
But on Tuesday, the city withheld release of the document, characterizing it as not an “existing” document, said Kim Hilsenbeck, Kyle communications manager.
As originally approved, the ordinance set limits on pipeline placement in an effort to protect the city and its residents from damages that might be incurred during the construction and operation of the 42-inch pipe in the Permian Highway Pipeline (PHP), which would carry natural gas from the oil fields of West Texas to near Houston.
Specifically, the ordinance addresses how close to existing utility infrastructure pipelines could be placed and requires that pipelines be buried no less than 13 feet deep. Other portions of the ordinance address timelines that pipeline operators must adhere to.
The ordinance came just a few months after Kyle, along with Hays County and some landowners, filed suit against Kinder Morgan and the Railroad Commission (RRC), the only state agency to regulate pipelines. The suit, which was later dismissed by a judge, intended to prove the current permitting process – which consists of the company checking a single box on a form – was unconstitutional. It had called for an injunction against Permian LLC and Kinder Morgan from using the power of eminent domain until the RRC had developed new, “legally sufficient” standards for permitting. It was the first legal action of its type to challenge the RRC.
A second legal action concerns the project’s route through the habitat of federally-endangered species including songbirds.
There are groundwater concerns as well. The pipeline’s proposed route takes it less than a mile from environmentally sensitive Jacob’s Well and crosses the Blanco River twice. Opposition to the pipeline’s route served to unite environmentalists and property rights advocates, two groups that rarely see eye to eye.
Kyle and Hays and Gillespie counties, along with the cities of San Marcos, Buda, Wimberley, Woodcreek and Fredericksburg, the Fredericksburg and Harper ISDs, the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District, the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District, the Hill Country Underground Water District and the Fredericksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau have all passed resolutions against the pipeline.
More than 1,000 landowners are affected by the route.