Citing its commitment to protect local aquifers, the BSEACD board of directors stated in a news release regarding its Jan. 16 meeting, “[B]ecause there is not a reasonable assurance that the aquifers will be protected during the construction and operation of the pipeline, the Permian Highway Pipeline should not be located within the District or any other hydrologically-sensitive area.”
The BSEACD was party to the second of two letters of intent to sue federal agencies over the impact of the 430-mile, $2 billion pipeline on endangered species in Central Texas. Both letters, one filed in July and one in October, charge that the pipeline company Kinder Morgan is attempting to bypass a full and public environmental review by seeking a general nationwide permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the Permian Highway Pipeline.
Those permits have not been issued yet, and a lawsuit will not be filed until they are, but both Kinder Morgan and the Texas Real Estate Advocacy and Defense Coalition—which is funding the legal challenges—anticipate the Corps will make a decision public soon.
Though there were two letters of intent, TREAD Coalition legal counsel David Braun told Community Impact Newspaper in December that the complaints will likely be combined into one endangered species lawsuit with a list of plaintiffs that has yet to be finalized. The BSEACD announcement confirms that at least one will be the conservation district.
Other signatories to the letters of intent include Hays County, Travis Audubon Society, the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association and the cities of Austin, Kyle and San Marcos.
The TREAD Coalition is also behind a lawsuit over the pipeline routing process, which is currently on appeal, as well as a future lawsuit that will argue the Permian Highway Pipeline is an interstate project, and therefore should be governed by stricter federal regulations.
Kinder Morgan expects the pipeline will be operational by the first quarter of 2021.