Hays County to pursue second lawsuit related to Permian Highway Pipeline
Hays County Commissioners voted Tuesday to join Travis Audubon Society and three private plaintiffs in filing a notice of intent to sue Kinder Morgan, the United States Army Corps of Engineers and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in connection with the proposed 42-inch Permian Highway Pipeline, according to a news release.
The notice cites a “thinly-veiled attempt to avoid obtaining the necessary federal permits to allow [Kinder Morgan] to lawfully ‘take’ federally listed endangered species during the construction, operation and maintenance of the PHP.”
In this context, “take” is defined by the Endangered Species Act to include harming, wounding or killing a listed species.
The proposed pipeline’s 430-mile route crosses environmental features in Texas, such as recharge zones of the Edwards and Edwards-Trinity Aquifers — which provide the drinking water supply for over two million people, according to the release — and habitat for federally listed endangered species like the golden-cheeked warbler. Central Texas is the only area in the world where the birds nest, and, according to the release, this pipeline could take more than 2,000 acres of its habitat.
Kinder Morgan has been called into question for choosing a path that would negatively impact the health, safety and economy of the Texas Hill Country and the Texas Innovation Corridor.
Residents of Fredericksburg, Harper and Gillespie County have voiced their pipeline concerns on numerous occasions.
During Fredericksburg City Council’s July 1 meeting, residents were joined by spokespersons of the Indigenous Environmental Network, a nonprofit organization that addresses environmental and economic justice issues.
“Advocates of landowners’ rights point to the Permian Highway Pipeline as an example of serious problems caused by the lack of a public approval process for intrastate oil and gas pipelines in Texas,” the release states.
City of Kyle officials first learned about the proposed pipeline from concerned residents who were contacted by Kinder Morgan about running it through their land.
Hays County Commissioners are concerned that the pipeline could affect public planning for new developments and public infrastructure in Kyle and Hays County.
Hays County Commissioners also voted Tuesday to appeal last month’s ruling in another lawsuit against Kinder Morgan, PHP, and the Texas Railroad Commission, according to the release.
That ruling by Judge Lora Livingston — heard in Travis County — dismissed all claims against Kinder Morgan.
The lawsuit will require the Railroad Commission to create a permitting process for companies before they can condemn private property for their pipeline right-of-way.
The City of Kyle, also a plaintiff, voted to appeal the lawsuit last week.
Plaintiffs in the new lawsuit are calling for an environmental impact study under the National Environmental Policy Act. However according to the release, the Army Corps confirmed that Kinder Morgan plans to use the Nationwide Permitting verification process instead.
“One distinct difference between NEPA and the Nationwide Permitting processes is the requirement to consider alternative routes,” the release states. “Typically, a project of this scale would require a full NEPA review.”
Both lawsuits discuss a “need for a real oil and gas pipeline routing process in Texas,” the release states. Formal environmental and economic impact processes are currently not required for pipeline companies when choosing an intrastate route.
Under the Endangered Species Act, plaintiff parties must wait 60 days to file a lawsuit after filing a notice of intent to sue.
Attorney David P. Smith, who represents the plaintiffs, said, “It is our hope that Kinder Morgan will do the sensible thing and comply with federal law, which could obviate the need for a lawsuit to be filed.”