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New Lawsuit Aims To Halt Construction Of Kinder Morgan Pipeline In Texas

Julia Reihs

The Permian Highway Pipeline Project faces another legal challenge, this time from the Sierra Club. The lawsuit, filed in federal court on April 30, seeks a temporary injunction against construction of the pipeline and a more thorough environmental impact study. 

The Sierra Club’s complaint doesn’t list Kinder Morgan, the company building the pipeline across Texas, as a defendant. Instead, the environmental organization is suing the Army Corps of Engineers over issues with permitting and an insufficient environmental review.

According to Joshua Smith, an attorney with the Sierra Club, federal law requires a more comprehensive environmental impact study. 

“The National Environmental Policy Act sets out a fairly clear iterative process that requires public participation at each stage, and that's in terms of developing the alternatives that the Corps is required to consider and fully assess,” he said. “So, the Corps can't just take Kinder Morgan's word for it and evaluate only what Kinder Morgan wants them to evaluate.”

Smith said the Corps’ permitting process needs to be informed by public comments from affected landowners and environmentalists and should consider all alternatives to the planned pipeline, including no pipeline. 

He also said the type of nationwide permit granted by the Army Corps of Engineers to Kinder Morgan was struck down last month. A federal judge in Montana revoked the Corps’ nationwide permitting process in an ongoing lawsuit about the Keystone XL pipeline.

“So we brought a separate claim, aside from the National Environmental Policy Act claim, that the Corps has an obligation to halt construction of the project until it ensures that the operator, Kinder Morgan, has a valid permit under the Clean Water Act,” he said. 

The Army Corps of Engineers and Kinder Morgan declined to comment on pending litigation. 

Kinder Morgan already began construction on the 430-mile pipeline, and the company accidentally spilled about 36,000 gallons of drilling fluid into the Blanco River watershed in late March. 

In a written response to Texas Public Radio, Kinder Morgan said, “We are working with concerned landowners to address their needs, offering food, clean water, and other accommodations. We are also consulting with our Karst expert and the local water district manager to determine the best way to mitigate any current and future impacts.”

Hays County revoked construction permits after the spill.

Smith said he expects a preliminary decision for the Sierra Club’s complaint sometime in the next two months. 

Dominic Anthony Walsh can be reached at Dominic@TPR.org and on Twitter at @_DominicAnthony.

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Dominic Anthony Walsh can be reached at Dominic@TPR.org and on Twitter at @_DominicAnthony