After the hard-fought and well-deserved victory of the Standing Rock Water Protectors, here comes a new frontier, the Trans-Pecos Pipeline. This pipeline is a 143 miles long natural gas pipeline that goes from Pecos Texas to Mexico, going under the landmark Rio Grande. It is being constructed by the same company (Energy Transfer Partners) that was responsible for #DAPL in North Dakota and have very much of the same MO, except that instead of the Native Americans being the victims, it is the conservative Texas locals. Here are 5 things to know:
- Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) used eminent domain for the Trans-Pecos pipeline, just like it did for #DAPL. Much of the lands are privately owned and many are on farm or ranch lands. Landowners get an offer for voluntary easement for the construction of the pipeline, if landowners decline the first offer, they will get a second offer. Should the landowners decline again, they are threatened with Eminent Domain and pretty much have no other option but to accept the offer they are given. One can argue that Eminent Domain should only be used when there is a greater good for the public, such as when the State of Texas constructed the highway through rural neighborhoods connecting communities. In response, the company has added 5 taps throughout the pipeline, arguing that the local communities could draw from the natural gas transferred by the Trans-Pecos. However, how much of it is going to be local usage if at all, and how much is going to be transferred to Mexico and then shipped overseas, the company declined to disclose. Moreover, landowners have reported surveyors showed up on privately owned properties much prior to the announcement of the construction project without permissions nor notices.
2.This pipeline is a collaboration between ETP and Mexico’s Carlos Slim. Slim who was born to a Lebanese family in Mexico, and the richest man in the world from 2010-2013. Recently, Slim has met with President-to-be Trump and the news has barely made a peep. Here is a web of connections, let me pick it apart for you. Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) CEO, Kelcy Warren, was a big donor to the Rick Perry campaign ($6 million to be exact), he has also donated more than $100,000 to The Donald. Rick Perry is on the board of ETP, that’s right, he’s paid by Kelcy Warren. That’s not all, he’s also working for Trump, now that he has been appointed as the new head of the Department of Energy. Donald Trump himself also has about $1 million invested in Kelcy Warren’s company. On a side note, Kelcy Warren has also donated about half a million dollars to TX Governor Greg Abbott’s campaign, and he has been appointed to the board of the Parks and Wildlife Commission for a 6 year term in 2015. Ironic right? An oil tycoon on the board of a committee that’s suppose to protect wildlife? This project is due to complete early next year. The pipeline costs approximately $7.1 million to construct including paying the local landowners, but the contract between ETP and Carlos Slim is a whopping $767 million contract. So you see, this timed meeting is not so random as it seems. To add to the irony, according to Jordan Chariton at TYT Politics, Kelcy Warren has sued to stop fracking when it was brought to his own neighborhood.
3. Texas has always been energy friendly, in another word, lots of drilling and pipeline building (426,000 miles, 1/6 of the nation’s network are in TX). There is no permits required to drill on private lands and very minimum regulations oversee such actions. Therefore, there are no environmental studies done for the Trans-Pecos. The Texas Railroad Commission oversees the regulations of drilling and construction of pipelines, which is really a headscratcher for non-native Texans. The new Chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission (TRC), Christi Craddick, is the daughter of a former Rep. House Speaker, Tom Craddick. Christi Craddick is pro-fracking and very ‘business friendly’. She has said once, “Texas provides an excellent model of effectiveness and efficiency for shaping national energy policies.” Since 2011, Texas has seen an increase of 40,000 more miles of pipelines and 200,000 more oil wells. To put it into perspective, the Keystone Pipeline was merely 1,179 miles. In 2014, the city of Denton has voted to ban fracking, 2 lawsuits were filed against the city, which were dropped subsequently to the passing of the House Bill 40 in April 2015, which limited the power of local government over “below ground activities” and ‘commercially unreasonable’ regulations. The TRC is very much fee-based and with the passing of the “Texas Oilfield Relieve Initiative” in 2016, which allows the approval and regulatory functions to be done electronically, oil and gas industry will only grow.
4. Pro Trans-Pecos argument has been that it brings much needed cleaner energy to Mexico cities near the border city El Paso, where coal pollution has been a problem. However, this is not needed according to the Sierrra Club. Mexico has a large oil reserve just behind US and Canada. With the recent deregulation, American oil and gas industries can frack in Mexico on a massive scale and multiple pipelines are already under construction and will only increase. According to the Sierra Club, only 10% of the Trans-Pecos flow is required to supply energy to these cities, so where does the rest of it go? Most likely overseas to countries like China or other south Asian countries at a profit. Speculation also has it that since the oil prices has been low and made fracking unprofitable in the US, after the completion of the Trans-Pecos, it’s not unlikely that the natural gas could flow from Mexico to the US and then be sold to domestic markets. Pipeline supporters also like to bring up the point that projects like this create jobs. During the construction of the pipeline from 2015 – 2016, 350 jobs has been created. After the pipeline is completed, much of the pipeline is going to be monitored by an electronic system, which requires virtually no labor. Fracking boom may increase the workers that’s required, that much is true, but with the technology improvement, less workers are required now than before. The actual jobs provided by such pipeline is likely to be in the tens, not to mention the health hazards of such jobs from the toxic chemicals in the air and water at fracking sites. New energy such as wind or solar can provide the same amount if not more jobs, at a lower cost of the environment and our health.
5. Lastly, but by no means the least, the environmental concerns of it all. Pipelines are dangerous! Yes it may be safer than transporting by rail, but if anything goes wrong, it leads to larger, more disastrous aftermath. In June 2015, Energy Transfer Partners’ underground pipeline exploded near Cuero TX, causing massive fires, destroyed about a half of a mile of roadway and several homes had to be evacuated. This was the second fire in the same region within a year period. Ecowatch has documented 220 ‘significant’ pipeline spills this year, with hundreds of millions of damages, which are often have to be cleaned up using tax dollars if the State of Emergency is declared. According to Reuters, only approximately 20% of the spills were detected by electronic systems. This, causes a lot of the spills to remain undiscovered, until they are reported by people that happens to be passing by one. Moreover, Trans-Pecos pipeline goes through some of the driest lands in Texas, where water is scarce and precious. If anything goes wrong, and record indicates that something will eventually, putting out fire can be a significant challenge for the locals. Furthermore, if the section of the pipeline that goes under the Rio Grande spills, it will have dire consequences. It is beyond time that we move away from fossil fuels. The process of fracking not only emits methane that pollutes our air, it also contaminates our water sources. Fracking companies injects into the ground with millions of gallons of water laced with chemicals, much of which is unknown to the public because they are so-called industry secrets. The chemical laced water is then disposed and permeates down to our water sources, irrigation systems and such. According to a recent EPA study, fracking contaminates water at any stages of the process. Without clean and safe drinking water, what will become of us?