Op-Ed: Reasons to Oppose the Trans-Pecos Pipeline

By the Big Bend Conservation Alliance

The proposed Trans-Pecos Pipeline is a 42”-diameter, high-pressure natural gas transmission line slated to run through the Big Bend to supply fracked gas from Texas to power plants in Mexico. The Big Bend Conservation Alliance—in conjunction with local landowners, citizens, and people across the state—is opposing the Trans-Pecos pipeline out of concerns for human health, safety, and quality of life, the region’s economic and ecological well-being, and for the dangerous precedent it sets in an area largely untouched by industry.

Natural gas transmission lines place people and the land in jeopardy. The Big Bend is part of the most seismically active area in the state, increasing the risk of pipeline ruptures. Resulting leaks would vent methane and an array of toxic chemicals directly into the atmosphere. The “blast zone” for a pipeline of this size extends a minimum of three and a half football fields from the rupture. Associated wildfires would spread rapidly across our semi-arid grasslands, threatening rangeland, structures, and the safety of humans and animals.

The scale of ground disturbance during the construction phase would be unprecedented in this region. A 125 foot-wide corridor would be bladed the entire 143 mile length of the pipeline. The permanent pipeline easement would amount to a 50 foot-wide, 143 mile-long bladed swath, in addition to a network of new roads and associated pipeline infrastructure such as block valves, meters, and blowdown stations enclosed in chain link fences. The pipeline and its infrastructure would further fragment one of the largest intact bioregions in the country and the scars would remain indefinitely, diminishing the beauty of the Big Bend’s pristine landscape.

The pipeline corridor would be permanently taken out of production, reducing both its agricultural and ecological value. As a result, hunting, ecotourism, and outdoor recreation values would be diminished. While the company would offer one-time compensation to landowners for the pipeline easement, adjacent landowners—who would also suffer reduced property values, blight, dust, weeds, noise, and human activity—will receive none.

There are also concerns of a broader nature. As one of the last un-industrialized areas in the country, for industry to get a toehold here would be a tragedy. The United States is covered in a maze of oil and gas transmission pipelines. But these huge pipelines still end in the Permian Basin, stopping well short of the Big Bend. Our region is one of very few that is not part of this web of oil and gas infrastructure.

If this pipeline is built, additional pipelines could later be laid along the easement. Spur lines could be built to take gas to other sources. Over time, compressor stations would likely be constructed along its length. And with each additional piece of infrastructure, we inch closer to becoming yet another casualty of the oil and gas industry.

The Big Bend is one of America’s most iconic landscapes. It is a place that retains its suite of native plants and animals, an unparalleled geological and ecological showcase famous for its brilliant night skies and its panoramic vistas. It is the backyard of Texas, with recreation and wilderness values exceeding any other area in the state.

For all these reasons the Trans-Pecos Pipeline is an affront to the sanctity of the Big Bend and people everywhere who feel a kinship to it. There are some places simply too special to sacrifice for “progress.” The Big Bend, in all of its majesty, is one.

No pipeline. Not here. Not in our Big Bend.

 

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