HAYS COUNTY —The route of Kinder Morgan’s Permian ˙Highway Pipeline is about 99 percent mechanically complete’ through the Texas Hill Country and is on track to be carrying natural gas from West Texas to near Houston early next year.
Company VP Allen Fore told the Hays Free Press/News Dispatch that the negotiations with landowners concerning a slight re-route of the pipeline’s path in order to avoid the Blanco River are now complete and involved nine landowners and 11 parcels of land, all within Blanco CountyPHP Full Blanco County Map with Reroute.
The route was amended to avoid any crossing of the Blanco River and Fore said the four-mile reroute added two miles to the PHP’s estimated 430-mile length.
The company said in August that it would re-reoute part of the path to avoid drilling under the river. On March 28, as the first of two initially planned river crossings was initiated, the contractor’s crew hit and ruptured a karst feature, sending tens of thousands of drilling mud and fluid into the breach and fouling nearby water wells.
Fore said the rest of the route was unaffected and the re-routing was complete in about four weeks. He said all of the pipe is now in the ground and the remaining work above ground consists of restoration efforts like planting grass and fencing.
Fore was also asked about the veracity of Carrie Isaac, the GOP candidate for State Representative District 45, who told the League of Women Voters that efforts to oppose the pipeline such as her opponent, current State Rep. Erin Zwiener had been involved in, had “accomplished nothing,” and that it was an outreach by GOP Congressman Chip Roy, who is up for re-election this year, that led to the decision to re-route a portion of the pipeline.
Generally,” Fore said, “we have talked to a number of stakeholders including congressmen and their staffs and commissioners in Hays and Blanco counties as we worked through the reroute — officials at each level.” He said factors involved in the decision to re-route took those interactions into consideration as well as the company’s own analysis of the situation.
“We always said we wanted to take in all the factors including where we’re going to, not just what we’re going away from,” Fore told the newspaper.
He said the new route has met withe approval from regulatory agencies including US Fish & Wildlife, who oversees issues related to endangered species.
The pipeline had met with intense public opposition since company officials first began approaching Hill Country landowners for right-of-way in the fall of 2018, in a coalition that included an unlikely partnership of property rights advocates and environmentalists. They agreed in that the pristine, karst-rich region was the wrong place for infrastructure of its type and the dispute launched a handful of lawsuits that focused on issues including the fact that, because they are considered infrastructure, the builders of pipeline are free to use the power of eminent domain. Kinder Morgan settled some legal actions with landowners in Blanco County who had complained the company’s initial offers were too low. Other legal actions targeted the federal Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act.
Also because of its classification as infrastructure, the only state agency that needed the project’s approval was the Texas Railroad Commission, which does not consider environmental damage as part of its permitting process.
During the LWV forum, Zwiener responded to Isaac’s comments by noting the opposition to the pipeline had delayed its progress significantly. She also said she was “confident we dissuaded other companies from coming to the Texas Hill Country.”