AUSTIN, Texas -- A natural gas pipeline is proposed to run through 16 Texas counties, including several in Central Texas.
• Proposed pipeline would stretch 430 miles from West Texas to Houston
• More than 1,000 landowners have been contacted about having their land surveyed
• Kinder Morgan will be able to utilize the power of eminent domain to seize land
Kinder Morgan's proposed Permian Highway Pipeline will stretch about 430 miles of 42-inch pipeline from West Texas to the Houston area, and move 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day.
MORE INFO | Permian Highway Pipeline Fact Sheet (.pdf)
Landowners in Central Texas have been contacted by the company about the pipeline. In total, Kinder Morgan reports a little more than 1,000 landowners on the proposed route have been contacted about having their land surveyed. Lucy Johnson and her family have owned the Halifax Ranch that borders the bank of the Blanco River in Kyle since the 1930s. The Johnsons are one of many families that could see pipeline construction starting in their backyards this fall.
"We're talking not hundreds, but thousands of homes that this pipeline would be going through the middle of," Johnson said.
She said the Halifax Ranch has a conservation easement and is home to a sensitive environment, as are the neighboring ranches. She pointed out the Halifax Ranch is on a wetland, and sees flooding in the pasture.
"I think the attitude of our family and others is, 'Never say never.' We're going to do whatever it takes to fight this pipeline. There's half a dozen pipelines being planned and being constructed right now that take Permian Basin natural gas and oil to the coast and all of them go around the Hill Country, except for this line,” said Johnson.
Allen Fore, the company's vice president for Public Affairs, said a major reroute is likely not in the cards because the starting and ending points are set.
"Considering the origination, considering the destination, routing around the county for example or significant departure from where we are now is going to be prohibitive. You want to make it as short as possible, because that's the least impactful. Shorter, less landowners, less construction issues, less challenges regarding environmental issues," Fore said.
Johnson believes the company didn't give a lot of thought to the proposed route.
"There's no reason for pipelines to take paths that go through sensitive and frankly inhospitable grounds just because it's the shortest route to the coast," Johnson said.
Fore said the company is meeting with individual landowners, county officials, and city leaders to make minor route adjustments based on their concerns.
"Believe that we're doing the best we can to address concerns but also at the same time, be realistic about the limitations that exist on what we can and can't do. Folks may not be as familiar in the Hill Country with pipeline construction as many other parts of Texas are. We understand that so that's why we're really trying to focus on that part of it, education, and transparency,” said Fore.
The Johnson family is one of hundreds taking legal action working with attorneys, and hiring a lobbyist to help them fight it in terms of new legislation. The family wants to ensure pipelines in the future aren't built in sensitive areas like the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone.
"Even though currently, there's almost no recourse for landowners who want to fight the routing of an oil and gas pipeline through their property," Johnson said.
Texas law rules in favor of private companies that are "common carriers" that will serve multiple customers for the pipeline. If necessary, Kinder Morgan will be able to utilize the power of eminent domain to seize land to start construction.
"If the parties can't come to terms, at some point those processes will kick in and we'll be following those processes. We don't want to do that. The landowner relationship that we have, we don't want it to start off adversarial. We will exhaust every available option to us to avoid any kind of condemnation action,” said Fore.
Pending landowner acquisition and civil and environmental survey completion, Kinder Morgan is planning to start construction in fall 2019. The proposed in-service date is the fourth quarter of 2020.