by Hugh MacMillan
Opposition is mounting against the Trans-Pecos pipeline, a project proposed to move natural gas across the vast Big Bend region of Texas. If built, the pipeline would be a monument to corporate gain at the expense of the public.
The United States – guided not just by the oil and gas industry, but also by big investment banks (see here and here) – is looking to “integrate” oil and gas extraction and distribution activities throughout North America, in coordination with Canada and Mexico. Extracting as much unconventional oil and natural gas as possible, through widespread drilling and fracking, is central to the collective vision.
Energy Transfer Partners, in collaboration with and supported by Morgan Stanley, aims to cash in by exporting natural gas from several facilities in Texas. Specifically, among ETP’s projects is the three-and-a-half-foot in diameter Trans-Pecos pipeline planned for transporting dangerous and explosive natural gas across the Big Bend region of Texas into Mexico.
The path of the Trans-Pecos pipeline, plotted with existing oil and gas industry infrastructure, illustrates the open space and unspoiled nature unique to the Big Bend region. MAP COURTESY OF U.S. ENERGY INFORMATION ADMINISTRATION / EIA.GOV (Click image to enlarge)
Kelcy Warren, the billionaire at the helm of Energy Transfer Partners, aims to pump as much as two billion cubic feet of natural gas a day, to feed into pipelines planned in Mexico, owned by Carlos “Slim” Helu, nearly the richest if not the richest person in the world.
With the Obama administration’s recent whitewash of an assessment on the impacts of drilling and fracking on drinking water resources, the stage is set for these billionaires to win big – at the expense of public health and safety, and of the environment. Widespread drilling and fracking would be required to access the volumes of gas needed to fill their pipelines. In addition, the pipeline could pave the way for fracking to spread to Mexico: After running its course in Texas, the direction of flow through the pipeline could just be reversed, allowing their profits to continue to flow.
Thankfully, those banking billions of dollars on natural gas exports to Mexico through the Trans-Pecos pipeline in the coming years are not unopposed. Many Texans along the proposed path do not want a high-pressure pipeline on their land, and do not want it near their homes.
Several recent pipeline failures have led to massive destruction and even loss of life (see here and here). In the U.S., more than 11,000 pipeline incidents have occurred from 1994 to 2014, and the incidents have caused $6.5 billion in property damage.[i] These incidents make it clear why many landowners are reluctant to have pipelines on their property.
Energy Transfer Partners, Morgan Stanley, and those, such as President Obama, who are pushing the grand vision behind the Trans-Pecos project also face another obstacle.
The Big Bend region, home to the mysterious Marfa Lights, is remote and unique. Many Texans, while not directly in the path of the pipeline, cherish its vast wide-open space and the darkness, all unmarred by the legacy of the state’s oil and gas industry footprint. The Trans-Pecos pipeline, as the first pipeline to dissect the region, would change that.
The Big Bend Conservation Alliance is working to defend the region by urging President Obama to put the brakes on the Trans-Pecos Pipeline. You can follow these steps to add your voice, and your comments will be received. Tell President Obama that it is time for the too-big-to-fail banks to stop building out reckless fossil fuel infrastructure, all for private gain at the public’s expense.
It is time to recognize the true costs and the true solutions.
True energy security comes from local energy system independence, not continental scale efforts to increase and intensify fossil fuel production. It’s time for Obama to see the Marfa Lights, and stop putting corporate trade interests on a pedestal while sweeping health and safety of Americans under the rug.
Hugh MacMillan is Senior Researcher on the Food & Water Watch water team.