San Marcos joins growing list of local governments opposed to Kinder Morgan’s Permian Highway Pipeline

Nikkye Vargas, a representative of the Indigenous Cultures Institute, spoke in support of the San Marcos City Council's resolution to oppose the Permian Highway Pipeline during the citizen comment portion of the March 5 meeting.

Nikkye Vargas, a representative of the Indigenous Cultures Institute, spoke in support of the San Marcos City Council's resolution to oppose the Permian Highway Pipeline during the citizen comment portion of the March 5 meeting.

Image description
Permian_Highway_pipeline_HAYS
The list of local governmental bodies that have passed resolutions opposing Kinder Morgan’s Permian Highway Pipeline just got longer.

San Marcos City Council unanimously voted on March 5 to oppose the 430-mile, 42-inch natural gas pipeline set to be routed through the center of Hays County.

In addition to expressing the city’s opposition to the project, the resolution—almost exactly like the resolutions recently passed by the Hays County Commissioners Court and Kyle City Councildemands immediate state legislative action that would require additional oversight on the project and any future projects like it.

According to a preliminary map provided by Kinder Morgan, the pipeline is set to run just north of Wimberley before passing between Kyle and San Marcos.

The pipeline’s proposed route has been the center of local controversy as residents, officials and environmental protection groups fear the natural gas line will put the Hill Country’s environmentally sensitive features at risk—namely the Edwards Aquifer, which serves as the water supply for much of the region, and the habitat of the endangered golden-cheeked warbler.

Kinder Morgan plants to route the Permian Highway Pipeline over portions of the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone. Opponents believe that such a route will make the aquifer—which is uniquely sensitive due to its karst features—dangerously susceptible to pollution.

Kinder Morgan consultant Greg Neal and Ashley Waymouth, managing director of the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association, each gave presentations before the council took its vote.

In her presentation, Waymouth said that for more than 30 years, dye tests conducted by local scientists have proven how interconnected the region’s water supply is. As a whole, she said, that makes the region more sensitive to the presence of a natural gas pipeline than other areas in the state.

“They put dye in a sinkhole or a creek or in a formation and then they sort of test all of the surrounding areas to see where this dye reappears,” Waymouth said. “Sometimes it comes out in people’s bathtubs.”

She said a 2009 study found that dye placed in the Blanco River later showed up in the San Marcos Springs.

“In fact, continuously through these studies, we’re learning that during times of regular flow the water from the Blanco contributes about roughly 30 percent of the flow to the San Marcos Springs,” Waymouth said. “This pipeline is challenging and threatening both Barton Springs and the San Marcos Springs in addition to the numerous wells or other supplies.”

In addition to the aquifer’s vulnerability, Waymouth said the water bodies in Hill Country are particularly susceptible to increased sedimentation caused by the digging that is necessary to install a pipeline. She told the council about an incident in December, where a substantial influx of sedimentation appeared in Barton Springs following the digging of a single well in the Edwards Aquifer.

“If we can see that connection in this very sensitive area which has very—if not exactly—the same characteristics of our own, what could we expect to find from this 430-mile pipeline coming right through the middle of some of the most sensitive areas? Any amount of trenching, any amount of digging, any amount of excavation could trigger increased sedimentation in our springs.”

Increased sedimentation in the San Marcos Springs, Waymouth said, would pose a threat to the endangered salamanders that live in them and are found nowhere else in the world.

“[Kinder Morgan] will be destroying hundreds of acres of the golden-cheeked warblers’ natural nesting habitat, but they’re just going to buy some land somewhere else and call it good,” Waymouth said, referring to a federal credit system that is sometimes used to offset adverse effects of development in endangered species habitats. “They can’t do that for these salamanders, which are incredibly prone to increased sedimentation, to pollution, to any amount of disturbance.”

During his presentation on behalf of Kinder Morgan, Neal urged the City Council to reject the resolution as “unnecessary” and “ill-conceived.”

“Can we agree that this resolution, as it is written, is counter to the interest of Texas?” Neal asked, noting that natural gas is a substantial contributor to the state’s economy. “And it does nothing to address the stewardship of the resources we claim to value. Instead, the entire focus is recommending new layers of ill-defined governmental bureaucracy and changing the laws which have served the oil and gas industry for over a hundred years.”

Neal said the Permian Highway Pipeline will have a positive economic impact on the state and the communities it passes through because it is projected to add $42 million of increased tax revenue.

Waymouth, however, said she does not believe the additional revenue will be a net benefit to the Hill Country.

“In one version of the story, sure, there’s an increased annual tax revenue—but how much is that compared to how much loss we could expect to experience?” Waymouth said. “If any of this gas spills into the aquifer how will they clean it up? How will they get it out? So ultimately we are very concerned about the wellbeing of the San Marcos Springs, we’re  concerned about the wellbeing of our groundwater at large.”

Neal asked that the council talk to Kinder Morgan about the city’s concerns rather than asking the state legislature to change its laws to include greater oversight and restrictions on the use of eminent domain.

“I made my presentation as someone encouraging working with Kinder Morgan as opposed to sanctioning the project, and as I described, punting the project to the state legislature for them to take up these issues of the environment,” Neal said. “Keep the discussion here, locally, with the company that’s doing the work.”

Following the presentations, Mayor Pro Tem Lisa Prewitt noted that the pipeline is currently routed through some of the most dense and heavily populated areas in Hill Country.

“It goes through areas where there’s neighborhoods, subdivisions, schools,” Prewitt said. “We live in a city of Texas and y’all are just going in and literally taking people’s lands from them? Why in God’s name would you choose that route? I mean, that’s where our people live.”

As she fielded questions to Neal, Prewitt said that most of the people in the Hill Country are passionate about preserving the environment of the region because it is one of the primary reasons they choose to live in it. 

“I don’t think that anybody here is specifically telling you we don’t want you to put this new energy source and pipeline through, but you have one already opening up in West Texas—why not utilize that area already?” she said. “After learning how pristine and precious and sensitive this environment is and that if you had a spill that went into the aquifer there would be no way to clean it up—why would not you consider a different route?”

Neal told Prewitt and Council Members Melissa Derrick and Mark Rockeymoore that he could not answer their questions about the route and encouraged them to speak with the company’s Vice President of Public Affairs Allen Fore.   

“I’m a consultant. However my thrust—my presentation—this evening was to engage Kinder Morgan in further discussion and that’s the kind of question I believe they’re prepared to answer,” he said.
By Anna Herod
Anna Herod covers local government, education, business and the environment as the editor of Community Impact Newspaper's Lewisville/Flower Mound/Highland Village edition. In the past, Anna served as the reporter for Community Impact's San Marcos/Buda/Kyle paper. Her bylines have appeared in the Austin American-Statesman, Hays Free Press and The Burleson Star. She is a graduate of Texas State University's School of Journalism and Mass Communication.


MOST RECENT

Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath announced in a June 30 State Board of Education meeting that students will be taking the STAAR in the 2020-21 school year. (Courtesy Pixabay)
Education organizations call for STAAR requirements to be waived another year

Gov. Greg Abbott waived the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, testing requirements in March of earlier this year in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

With a clinical background in internal, pulmonary and critical care medicine, Corry has been with BCM for 20 years. He now focuses primarily on inflammatory lung diseases, such as asthma and smoking-related chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. (Graphic by Ronald Winters/Community Impact Newspaper)
Q&A: Baylor College of Medicine's Dr. David Corry discusses immunity, vaccine production amid COVID-19 pandemic

Rapid development and distribution of a vaccine worldwide and successful achievement of herd immunity will be key players in determining the lifespan of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Dr. David Corry, a professor of Medicine in the Immunology, Allergy and Rheumatology Section at Baylor College of Medicine.

The new partnership will provide on-site, same-day testing and results for assisted-living facility staff and their residents. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
State announces partnership for increased COVID-19 testing for patients, staff at assisted-living facilities, nursing homes

These test sites will help the state work toward the goal of processing up to 100,000 tests in the first month.

Former Cedar Park Police Department Chief Sean Mannix is pictured in this 2015 file photo. (Community Impact Newspaper file photo)
Cedar Park police chief moves to Burnet, driver's license offices reopen: Most popular news this week from Central Texas

Read the most popular Central Texas news from the past week on Community Impact Newspaper's website.

Green Guy Recycling opened in January of 1995. (Courtesy Green Guy Recycling)
Green Guy Recycling in San Marcos expands community options

Green Guy Recycling specializes in purchasing ferrous, or iron-based metals, and nonferrous metals.

Effective July 9, hospitals in more than 100 counties across the state must now postpone elective surgeries unrelated to COVID-19. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
MAP: Governor expands restrictions on elective surgeries to more than 100 Texas counties

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott expanded the restrictions that initially required only hospitals in Bexar, Dallas, Harris, and Travis counties to postpone all non-medically necessary surgeries and procedures that are unrelated to COVID-19.

In compliance with Gov. Greg Abbott's July 2 executive order, the University Interscholastic League is requiring the use of facial coverings when practical to do so for all summer activity participants, among other guidelines. (Graphic by Ronald Winters/Community Impact Newspaper)
UIL releases guidelines for conducting summer activities during COVID-19 pandemic

The University Interscholastic League released udpated guidelines for schools conducting summer activities such as sports training and marching band practices on July 8.

Beijing Bistro is located at 3420 FM 967, Ste. 110B, Buda (Courtesy Beijing Bistro)
Buda's Beijing Bistro offers customized eats and family atmosphere

Eduardo Martinez started working in Chinese restaurants in 1995, shortly after he arrived from Mexico. He started in the food industry as a dishwasher, then eventually became owner of his own restaurant.

Hays County's number of confirmed cases of coronavirus rose July 8. (Community Impact staff)
Hays County reports 85 new coronavirus cases, 1 additional death July 8

The Hays County Local Health Department confirmed 85 additional coronavirus cases July 8, bringing the total to 3,328.

Census worker
2020 census: Bureau prepares nonresponse follow-up field operations

For individuals who have not responded to the 2020 census, one of about 500,000 census takers will visit the their household between Aug. 11-Oct. 31.