Sierra Club Files Lawsuit To Stop Fracked Gas Pipeline Construction

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Sierra Club sues the Corps of Engineers for allowing the Permian Highway Pipeline Project to continue despite spills, groundwater contamination, and lack of public comment or environmental review.

The Sierra Club filed a lawsuit on April 30 against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for allowing the construction of a fracked gas pipeline. A federal court vacated the permit for the 428-mile Permian Highway pipeline for not doing the environmental review required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The environmental organization filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court Western District of Texas.

The pipeline “will cross a number of jurisdictional waters of the United States, and discharge dredge and fill material into them,” according to the lawsuit. It would carry fracked gas from the Permian Basin in Texas through Texas hill country to Colorado County. Despite a federal court vacating permits on April 15, the Army Corps fast-tracked approval for the pipeline’s construction with a process called Nationwide Permit 12 (NWP12).

“It is outrageous that the Corps approved this project without public notice or opportunity to comment on their permits,” said Sierra Club attorney Rebecca McCreary. 

“Nationwide Permit 12 allows for no public hearings or participation by the local communities before the Corps permits construction to start, nor is there public notice or comment on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permits allowing harm to the endangered species along the route. The Corps should stop this project immediately."

Drilling fluid spilled in Blanco County, Texas

In early April, a spill occurred during the drilling process, spilling drilling fluid into water wells during the construction of the pipeline. “There’s no doubt that’s what happened,” Ron Fieseler, general manager of the Blanco-Pedernales Groundwater Conservation District told local news channel KXAN. Fieseler received reports from two well owners that their drinking water is muddy. Kinder Morgan, the company constructing the pipeline, admitted the incident happened.

Local governments have expressed concerns about the pipeline’s construction. “This spill has validated those concerns,” said Sierra Club Senior Campaign Representative Roddy Hughes. 

In April, Hays County revoked permits for the pipeline. The county took the action after the spill in Blanco County. Hays County Commissioner Walt Smith told local radio station KUT that the county revoked the permits so a spill would not happen there. “Until they can figure out what the process is and why it happened and what, specifically, their contractor did, we just want them to pause,” Smith said.

Lawsuits plague the pipeline’s construction

The lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club is not the only legal challenge the pipeline faces. Less than two weeks after the spill in Blanco County, a local water protection group threatened Kinder Morgan and Permian Highway Pipeline LLC with a lawsuit. 

Another lawsuit filed in early February in U.S. District Court in Austin asks for an injunction to stop construction. Plaintiffs include the cities of Austin and San Marcos, along with Hays and Travis counties, the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District, and several landowners. 

In January, four property owners along the pipeline’s route filed a lawsuit against Kinder Morgan and Permian Highway Pipeline, LLC to stop construction. 

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