By John Waters, Publisher
To a stunned and disappointed audience of nearly 100 area residents gathered on June 2, the Alpine City Council failed to consider a resolution opposing the proposed 143-mile natural gas pipeline that will traverse the region, though not the city itself.
The wording of the agenda item and the resolution itself were the reasons two council members refused to second resolution.
During the meeting, Alpine Mayor Avinash Rangra, who submitted the agenda item, said that although he is not against business, as he himself is a businessman, “Nationwide there has been a leakage of methane gas to the tune of 162 million tons of the 27 percent has been through transmission and storage. So you figure that out.”
Rangra entertained a motion to consider the resolution that was then offered by Councilmember Julian Gonzales. Rangra then asked the council three times for a second, and finally offered, “The motion dies for lack of second.” The room erupted groans from the citizens in attendance.
Ward 3 Council Member, Jim “Fitz” Fitzgerald told the Gazette, “I did not like the way the resolution was crafted. If you read the resolution, it was not crafted by a professional; it was bitter and myopic.”
Nancy Artrim, who represents Ward 1, told the Gazette, “I had reservations about the wording. I think it is a dangerous precedent to deny services to someone because we don’t agree with what they do.”
In a statement to the Gazette, Councilmember Rick Stephens of Ward 5 said,
“My reason for not seconding the motions is that, 75 percent of the input I received from Ward 5 citizens did not support the resolution. Further, of all the input I received from across the city, from Brewster, Presidio, Jeff Davis Counties, and from as far away as Austin, 57percent opposed the resolution.
‘Since [the pipeline] doesn’t cross city property and the city has not been approached by ETP [Energy Transfer Partners], many asked why the city had such a resolution on the agenda. Their input was that the county should be addressing this issue. Further, many believe that since ETP has never contacted the city, the resolution would have no value in impacting any pipeline actions.
‘That said, many did express concern about pipeline safety because we are in a rural area and the lowest federal safety standard, class one, will apply. The federal regulations have four classes of safety standard for gas pipelines. Building to class three, where the pipeline comes close to city limits or any city or county homes or buildings, makes far better sense.”
After the meeting, Sara Kennedy-Mele, of Sunny Glen, said of the resolution not being passed, “It’s a kick in the face. We’re trying to protect Alpine and certain members on the council seem not to want to do that. We thought they were in opposition to the pipeline.”
“They could have postponed it if they thought they had a lack of information,” said Liz Sibley, ‘but I feel they are completely uninformed.”
A copy of the resolution obtained by the Gazette revealed some of its far-reaching goals, including:
“All residents within the City of Alpine have the right to hold private property without threat of expropriate [sic] or taking by corporate entities for purposes of private gain rather than public use.”
And: “ All ecosystems within the City of Alpine including but not limited to air, creeks, arroyos, wetlands, flood plains, aquifers and land possess the right to exist, flourish and evolve naturally.”
The resolution also stated the City of Alpine should oppose operations of the pipeline “near or through any portions of Alpine, Brewster County and Big Bend,” some of which are beyond the political jurisdiction of the city.
Alpine Mayor Avinash Rangra agreed to comment on this article. Due to a scheduled medical appointment, his comments were not received by press time and will be posted to our website when received.
The final version of the failed resolution was as follows:
The City of Alpine, Texas, by a majority vote of their City Council, hereby ratifies:
Whereas, the City of Alpine (herein known as the “City”) has duties both express and implied under its inherent municipal powers to protect the public health, welfare and safety of its citizens, residents and visitors.
Whereas, all residents of the City of Alpine have the right to hold private property without threat of expropriate or taking by corporate entities for purposes of private gain rather than public use.
Whereas, all resident of the City of Alpine, along with ecosystems within the City, possess the right to clean air, water and land.
Whereas, ecosystems within the City of Alpine including but not limited to air, creeks, arroyos, wetlands, flood plains, aquifers and land, possess the right to exist, flourish and evolve naturally.
Whereas, all residents of the City of Alpine, and ecosystems within the City and beyond its boundaries, possess the right to be free from chemical trespass and pollution of any source caused by toxic substances to air, water and land by loud noises and bright lights at night.
Whereas, a public hearing of the Alpine City Council (herein known as “Council”) held in lawful session at the Alpine Civic Center on May 5, 2015 specifically to hear from the public and address issues surrounding the construction of a 42” pipeline by Energy Transfer, (herein called the “Trans-Pecos Pipeline” known as the “TPP”) purportedly designed to transport natural gas from a point of origin in Coyanosa, Texas before crossing an international boundary of the Rio Grande into Mexico near Presidio Texas of approximately 143 miles in length and approximately ____ ft and more in width throughout an easement obtained for construction and maintenance of its necessary facilities, property and equipment for TPP purposes.
Whereas, the proposed route of TPP comprises a sparsely populated, wilderness region of West Texas called the Big Bend or the Big Bend Region of West Texas (herein known as “Big Bend”) having a fragile ecosystem and limited water resources often provided by aquifers throughout the region to sustain human and animal life in its desert, high desert and mountainous terrain.
Whereas, an opportunity was provided to members of the public; where more than 12 persons addressed the Council among several hundred attending and no speaker favored the TPP before a show of hands saw that only 1 person favored the TPP.
Whereas, letters in the letters to the editor columns of local media overwhelmingly oppose TPP.
Whereas, TPP is a company from an industry responsible for numerous industrial disasters throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, including pipeline ruptures containing natural gas, liquefied natural gas or oil.
Whereas, the City is situated in the heart of a Big Bend tri-county area consisting of Brewster, Jeff Davis and Presidio counties with its remote wilderness, scenic lands holding several Texas State and National Parks; which, in-addition to their irreplaceable value as environmental and eco-systems for wildlife and recreational use, is the primary revenue source drawn from tourism of individuals and groups present to enjoy, appreciate, study and be renewed in body, mind and spirit due to the unique features of the Big Bend, which would be negatively impacted by the very presence of construction or completion of TPP or an industrial disaster.
Whereas, from a thorough review of the available facts find over-whelming evidence TPP did not establish credibility in-advance, nor beget any credibility having commenced its project in Big Bend, placing motivation for the project, its wide-ranging scope and assurances to the people and environment in-doubt, by example:
1) Failed to obtain necessary permits for its facility and for drawing water in the area outside the corporate limits of the City known as Sunny Glenn;
2) Claimed to be an “intrastate” project not subject to Federal oversight or regulations;
3) Claimed to be a “public carrier” capable of taking privately owned real estate by the use of eminent domain;
4) Failed to demonstrate that the construction design of the pipeline made known by TPP is capable or that the project is ready and able to provide safe, natural gas to communities along its path;
5) Allegedly trespassed upon private real estate without obtaining permission of landowners in-advance of conducting surveys to facilitate construction;
6) Provided conflicting and insufficient information at public meetings held by representatives of TPP to members of the public, the media and elected and appointed officials of governmental entities in Big Bend, such as maps of the proposed route through Big Bend or having obtained permission by a Texas regulatory agency as otherwise required by law;
7) Failed to sufficiently document the necessity of building a 42” pipeline through a region which does not want the ramifications of the project, to the nation of Mexico which has sufficient energy resources of its own without importing more from the United State of America.