Construction on a 430-mile natural gas pipeline planned to run through the Texas Hill Country reached a milestone this week when pipeline company Kinder Morgan announced it had secured the legal right-of-way necessary to build out the project on private land across the state.
But that doesn’t mean fights with property owners or legal challenges to the project will come to an end.
One of the hurdles to building a pipeline is obtaining the right-of-way to build through privately owned land.
“It is an important milestone on any project in Texas and anywhere,” said Allen Fore, vice president of public affairs for Kinder Morgan.
In cases where Kinder Morgan used eminent domain to take the land, though, the company has gained that right-of-way against the wishes of the landowners. That means Kinder Morgan or the landowners may continue to fight in court over the terms of the land-taking even as the pipeline is being built.
Fore says Kinder Morgan is also still waiting on necessary federal permits for the project.
“This is a high profile,” he said. “So the permitting authorizations have a lot of scrutiny involved with them.”
Federal permits are at the center of a lawsuit that Austin, Kyle, San Marcos and Hays County have filed against Kinder Morgan. The suit alleges that Kinder Morgan did not follow the necessary steps under the U.S. Endangered Species Act to permit the project.
Specifically, City of Austin Environmental Officer Chris Herrington says Kinder Morgan needs to apply for a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to build the pipeline over the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone.
“Any catastrophic releases from the pipeline could come to Barton Springs where they could harm salamanders and their habitat,” he told KUT when that suit was announced.
The pipeline is planned to carry natural gas from the Permian Basin of West Texas to refineries and ports in the East. But it has provoked opposition from those along its path who worry about its impact on climate, water quality, public safety and private property.
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