After protests, TPWD Commissioner Kelcy Warren recuses himself from vote

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commissioners only meet 5 times a year.
The November meeting was a little more eventful than usual.
"This organization, the Parks and Wildlife department is supposed to protect and preserve these resources for us and for our future," said Frank Orona with the Society of Native Nations.

Orona says reducing dependence on fossil fuels is important...and he says Kelcy Warren who sits on the commission has a major conflict of interest with the department's mission to protect and preserve.

"That's not his intentions.  It's not what his company and his business is about, it's about pulling death out of the ground and that's not what we need right now," Orona said.

Warren is the CEO of Energy Transfer Partners.  He's behind some pipeline projects across the country not everyone is on board with. 

"We are in solidarity with the people of West Texas fighting two pipelines: the Trans-Pecos Pipeline in Alpine, the Comanche Trail Pipeline in El Paso County.  The same company behind them, Kelcy Warren's company 'Energy Transfer Partners' is also building the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota," said Dave Cortez with the Sierra Club.

Inside the chambers, many protestors signed up to speak on Item 7 regarding a completely different pipeline that would potentially go through some Texas Parks and Wildlife Land in southeast Texas.  Protestors were encouraging commissioners to say "no" and for Warren to recuse himself.

The security was tight.  It was increased ahead of the protest.

"Unfortunately we are aware of some threats that have been made.  Obviously we care the most about the safety and security of not only department staff and our commissioners but also all of the patrons that come by," said Josh Havens with Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Orona called the protests peaceful -- the only way they'll be heard.

"If somebody was to come and incite violence or harm like that then we would ask them to leave because that's not what our people, our elders want.  We want to keep it peaceful," Orona said.

In the end, the protestors convinced Commissioner Kelcy Warren.

"In light of what I have heard here today I believe that it would be appropriate for me to recuse myself from this vote also," Warren said to applause from the crowd.

Item 7 actually had to be tabled because another commissioner recused herself as well so they didn't have a quorum.  That pipeline may be discussed again at the next meeting in January.