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Put it somewhere else

Our Viewpoint
Sunday, March 17, 2019

“For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required,” says Luke 12:48 in the King James Version of the Holy Bible.

To paraphrase, if you’ve been given a treasure, you stand up to protect it. And that’s what’s been happening all across Hays County since Kinder Morgan’s plans for its Permian Highway Pipeline became known.

The pushback has been nearly universal, with resolutions of opposition easily passed by the city councils of San Marcos and Kyle and the Hays County Commissioners Court. The Hays County Democratic Party weighed in as well, and 11 bills filed in the Texas Legislature by Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood) that address pipeline concerns were “inspired” by the PHP, her office says.

Moreover, public meetings over the past weeks, some hosted by Kinder Morgan and others by elected officials, have drawn hundreds of attendees representing all points along the political spectrum and rungs of the socio-economic ladder who were united with a single message — put it somewhere else.

The proposed route transects the Wimberley Valley, comes within 2 miles of pristine Jacob’s Well (a swimming hole so popular that entrance is by reservation only) and twice crosses the Blanco River, which dye tests have linked to the San Marcos Springs.  

The 42-inch, 430 mile long pipeline would transport 2.1 billion cubic feet of natural gas daily from fields in West Texas to the refinery-rich Texas Gulf Coast. It would provide construction jobs and pump an estimated $1.6 million annually into the county coffers.  

All that is good, but it isn’t worth risking a resource that has sustained continual human habitation for possibly longer than any other site in North America.  

The city of Wimberley draws its water entirely from the aquifers and, although San Marcos has supplemented its sources, Hill Country springs remain the main source of water for man, beast, agriculture and industry all the way to the coast.

If the project goes through, is the situation in Georgetown a glimpse into Hays County’s future? An Atmos Energy natural gas pipeline leak there forced the evacuation of dozens of businesses and homes on Feb. 20 and all remain empty while efforts to release gas trapped in the soil continue.

As one of the fastest-growing counties in the nation, Hays is no stranger to big developments. But unlike subdivisions, roadways and other infrastructure, there’s no regulated environmental assessment required for the PHP. Neither is the project required to set aside habitat for endangered species, as La Cima did for the golden-cheeked warbler. The sole regulatory agency, the Texas Railroad Commission, only considers public safety in issuing permits.

And because the project is deemed a “common carrier,” Kinder Morgan is free to take private property through eminent domain.

No one is accusing the company of bad intentions, and they have done all that’s required of them. But accidents — even catastrophic ones — happen. If that were the case with the PHP, the result could be a true disaster — a contaminated aquifer that cannot be mitigated or fixed.

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” says the old proverb.  

To paraphrase, put it somewhere else.