Houston Company Halts Plans for Crude Oil Pipeline Across Aquifer Recharge Zone

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Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

A Peace of Heaven RV Camp sits near the originally proposed route of a crude oil pipeline which has now been called off with future plans and a possible relocation, according to Enterprise Product Partners.

Plans to build a controversial proposed crude oil pipeline over the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone have been canceled, Texas Hill Country landowners and a Houston pipeline company told the Rivard Report on Thursday.

Rick Rainey, vice president of public relations for Houston-based Enterprise Product Partners, confirmed the pipeline would not cross over the aquifer recharge zone. The company plans to release additional information about the pipeline on Friday, including where it might move. 

The decision comes after landowners met with Enterprise on Thursday morning to discuss concerns about the pipeline traversing San Antonio’s water supply. Enterprise considered building a 30-inch-in-diameter crude oil pipeline extending from North Texas to just south of San Antonio.

An Enterprise PowerPoint presentation from Sept. 2019 showed the pipeline route extending from Midland County to Wilson County then crossing Upton, Reagan, Crockett, Schleicher, Sutton, Edwards, Real, Kerr, Bandera, Uvalde, Medina, Frio, and Atascosa counties. This route would place the pipeline directly over the Edwards Aquifer, the main drinking water supply for 2 million people in the San Antonio region.

The Rivard Report first reported on the proposed pipeline route after landowners brought the issue to light. 

Ken Halliday, a rancher who owns land near Vanderpool, said he and a group of landowners in the area that would have been impacted by the proposed pipeline met with Enterprise at the company’s request.

“They listened, and it was a constructive conversation,” Halliday said. “They said they wanted to ‘do the right thing’ and they let us know they’re moving the pipeline so it will not cross over the aquifer recharge zone.”

Dan Hord, Halliday’s neighbor, also attended the Enterprise meeting with his father-in-law Ferrell Davis. Hord’s ranch has been in his wife Jenni’s family for four generations, which made protecting the land and the aquifer recharge zone all the more important, he said.

“Enterprise has done a great job of evaluating it and doing the right thing,” Hord said. “That’s kind of the corporate response that you want to have, you want to see. I’m extremely impressed with them and how they’ve handled the process.”

Landowners in Bandera County earlier this month began receiving notices from Enterprise about the pipeline that would potentially cross their property. The letters sparked outrage amongst Hill Country residents and the Bandera Canyonlands Alliance, whose goal is to “protect and preserve the natural beauty and rural way of life in the Bandera Canyonlands,” said last week it would discuss the pipeline at its next meeting on Oct. 12.

The Edwards Aquifer Authority, which oversees and works to protect the aquifer, was not formally notified by Enterprise of plans to build a pipeline over the recharge zone, said Senior Director of Communications Mike De La Garza.

“We have been pursuing a meeting with Enterprise to learn more about the plans, but they’re not bound by any rules to notify us formally,” he said.

Courtesy / Edwards Aquifer Authority

The Edwards Aquifer spans multiple counties and provides water to more than 2 million people.

The City of San Antonio holds many Edwards Aquifer-related conservation easements, which are contracts that prevent development from occurring on certain parcels of land to protect the drinking water supply. There are more than 156,000 acres protected in the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone and the contributing zone where water feeds into the recharge zone, Parks and Recreation Interim Director Homer Garcia III explained. 

“The City Attorney’s office is engaged and aware of this potential pipeline and we’re looking at what the application is of these conservation easements, our investments in the protection program, and how the pipeline route is impacted by these easements, if at all,” Garcia said. 

Mayor Ron Nirenberg said he is waiting to hear official word on the pipeline’s route, and that his office “will stay on alert.”

“I can’t fathom any circumstance in which a crude oil pipeline over any part of the Edwards Aquifer would be good,” he said in a statement. “There are few existential threats to San Antonio, but contaminating the Edwards Aquifer is one of them.”

Merry Langlinais, president of the Bandera Canyonlands Alliance, said she was ecstatic to hear the pipeline would avoid the recharge zone. Langlinais said she has been fielding phone calls from worried residents whom Enterprise contacted about surveying their land. 

“We were just minding our own business trying to be good stewards of the land and out of the blue people began getting letters for access to the land for this pipeline,” she said.

Though Langlinais has not talked to Enterprise officials directly, she said she sent letters to any and all elected representatives to voice her concern that the proposed pipeline was in “absolutely the wrong place.” 

“We are realistic enough to know that we cannot stop the transport of oil from the Permian Basin to South Texas, to the Houston area, or the coast,” she said. “We know that. What we were attempting to do is what we might be able to affect, and that is to keep it away from this very sensitive area.”

Many of the landowners who would have been affected by the proposed pipeline route are in the oil and gas business and have no qualms about crude oil pipelines as a concept, Halliday added.

”We’re not anti-oil or anti-industry,” Halliday said. “We just thought this was not the right route.”

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