BLANCO COUNTY, Texas - Construction is underway in the Hill Country for the Permian Highway Pipeline, after a federal judge sided with Kinder Morgan to begin construction immediately. The city of Austin filed a Temporary Restraining Order last month to halt construction citing the Endangered Species Act to protect the golden-cheek warbler.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman denied the TRO, stating the plaintiffs failed to show irreparable harm, but noting that Kinder Morgan is not allowed to clear vegetation within the warbler habitat from March 1 to July 31.
Construction crews went straight to work on Monday, clearing off sections of Mark Weiler's property. He and his family bought the land in 2017 in hopes of building a home in the Hill Country.
"All of a sudden, I get a letter on my door in October of 2018 that says, hey we are going to put a 42-inch high pressure, natural gas line, across your property and there's nothing you can do about it," Weiler said. "Even though we already had the house fully designed and a contractor lined up, we decided to put that part of our life on hold for now."
Weiler is one of the dozens of landowners having their property taken away to make way for Kinder Morgan’s Permian Highway Pipeline project that's stretching from West Texas to the U.S Gulf Coast.
In a statement the energy giant says in part:
“We are pleased with the decision and look forward to continuing construction on this vital infrastructure project. Throughout its development, we have actively worked with all of our stakeholders to ensure we have the best possible route. These outreach efforts have resulted in nearly 200 route changes to accommodate landowners and address what we have learned in land surveys. As a result of these diligent efforts, we have reached agreements on 100 percent of the right-of-way for this project.”
The project's environmental impact has weighed heavily on residents like retired civil engineer Kenneth Welch, who is asking for more transparency on the project.
"To not do an environmental study would be outrageous if they did do them they should be providing them to the public and let us see what the impacts are," Welch said.
In a statement, a spokesperson says the company and the pipeline are in "full compliance with the Endangered Species Act."
“Kinder Morgan and Permian Highway Pipeline are in full compliance with the Endangered Species Act. We have actively worked with the appropriate state and federal agencies, including those agencies tasked with protecting endangered species. PHP’s environmental assessments, among other things, comprehensively considered those endangered species that could potentially be affected by the project, and our construction plans have been designed to minimize impacts to those species. We remain committed to preserving the environment including endangered species, and we have gone above and beyond established requirements to do so.”
The $2-billion-dollar project is expected to be in service in early 2021.