Congressman sheds little light on pipeline
May 28th, 2015 under Top Stories
By SASHA von OLDERSHAUSEN
ALPINE – Congressman Will Hurd appeared at Sul Ross State University for a law enforcement memorial service on Wednesday, but before that he held a public forum on the Trans Pecos Pipeline to address questions and concerns from area residents.
Dozens of people – the majority of whom opposed the pipeline – attended the forum, where passions ran high.
Hurd opened the discussion with details of the proposed pipeline, not seven minutes into his talk when Sylvia Nelson interrupted him.
“With all due respect, Mr. Hurd, I appreciate the dust on your boots,” Nelson said. “You’re telling us something we already know. We would like to use your time in a better way.”
Hurd complied and opened the floor to questions and comments from those in attendance.
“Could we cut to the chase? Everyone here has heard all this stuff from Energy Transfer Partners,” said one woman from the audience. “We would like to know if there’s anything you can do to stop this pipeline.”
Hurd responded, “There will be no vote in Congress on this pipeline. The only federal piece to this is that they have to apply for a presidential permit.” The presidential permit would only affect the 1,000-foot stretch of pipeline crossing the Rio Grande.
Hurd said, “That will be decided and reviewed by the State Department and the State Department has not gotten a request for the presidential permit yet.”
He added, “I think my role is that if y’all have questions, we’ll make sure to try to get them answered.”
However, it became evident that the congressman could not supply many of those answers, and that the ambiguity surrounding many details of the pipeline project and its lack of transparency – most especially, the question of regulatory oversight – also posed a hurdle for Hurd.
For one, he and his staff referred to the pipeline as a liquefied natural gas pipeline. However, according to Energy Transfer Partners representative Lisa Dillinger, as well as the T-4 permit application filed by Energy Transfer Partners with the Railroad Commission of Texas, the pipeline won’t transport liquefied natural gas (LNG).
In fact, because liquefied natural gas must be stored in cryogenic liquid, an LNG pipeline cannot viably exist.
However, the ambiguity over what kind of gas would be contained by the Trans Pecos Pipeline project may have stemmed from an initial survey letter sent to area landowners. In it, Legacy Field Services – the survey firm tasked with siting the route – referred to the project as a “natural gas liquids pipeline.”
Natural Gas Liquids (NGLs) are actual liquids removed from the natural gas production stream in a natural gas processing plant. Ethane, propane and butane are all NGLs, and don’t refer to the type of gas that will be transported by the Trans Pecos Pipeline. In short, Legacy Field Services made a factual error. Energy Transfer Partners could not be reached for comment on the matter.
But the difference between a natural gas and an NGL pipeline is key insofar as permitting authority is concerned. While the U.S. Department of State would be the regulatory authority over the presidential permitting process for any NGL pipeline, in the case of a natural gas pipeline such as the Trans Pecos Pipeline, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) would hold authority over the presidential permit.
The uncertainty over who would regulate the pipeline on the federal level was just another example of the ambiguity that has defined the pipeline project since its inception.
“My job is to collect information,” said Hurd. “I’ve tried to get the perspective of as many people as I can. This is an emotional issue; this is a difficult issue for a lot of people. I’m going to try to make sure people know exactly what’s going on.”
He added, “Whether it’s the State Department or FERC and making sure that they’re doing everything they need to be doing appropriately—that’s the influence that I’ll be able to have on this.”
Story filed under: Top Stories
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