Since news broke late this spring of a plan to lay a 42-inch natural gas pipeline through 143 miles of the Big Bend to Mexico, opposition has been fierce and unrelenting in Marfa, Alpine and other corners of the region.
Opponents, led by the Big Bend Conservation Alliance, condemned the plan as a violation of private property rights, a public safety hazard and a desecration of a majestic corner of the state that remains largely unspoiled.
But don’t look for protesters or front-yard signs attacking it in Presidio, a poor and isolated city of about 4,000 people that sits just across the Rio Grande from Ojinaga, Mexico — near the pipeline route.
Presidio, which hopes to get a natural gas hookup from the line, has a perspective at odds with that of its neighbors to the north.
“We’ve never had natural gas here, so it’s really easy to be against something you’ve already got,” said Brad Newton, the city’s director of economic development.
“The people in Alpine don’t see the cloud of smoke forming over Ojinaga (from wood-burning stoves) that we do,” he said. “So, from a health and air pollution side, we see the pipeline as being a big benefit to the environment.”
It is designed to carry 1.4 billion cubic feet of gas a day and is just one component of an extensive modernization of Mexico’s energy system. But none of that carries any weight with most residents of the Big Bend.
As a measure of the public mood, more than 600 comments, including some from state and federal agencies, were received by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is evaluating the application by Energy Transfer Partners to tunnel the pipeline under the Rio Grande.