A natural gas pipeline has residents of the wide-open and biologically rich Big Bend region of Texas fuming.
The Trans-Pecos Pipeline would run 143 miles of 42-inch pipe through far West Texas, known for its unspoiled and stunning desert landscape, and conclude halfway across the Rio Grande. There, it would connect to pipe on Mexico’s side of the river that extends into the country’s interior. Once completed, the pipeline would transport up to 1.4 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day.
Mexico’s Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE) selected a consortium of companies that includes Houston-based Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) to construct the pipeline.
“There’s a litany of concerns,” said David Keller, a representative of the Big Bend Conservation Alliance (BBCA). “The pipeline is just a predecessor to more infrastructure. It’s going to bring more of the oil and gas industry trappings to the landscape.”
The Trans-Pecos region is known for its rugged but fragile desert ecosystem, which draws some 300,000 visitors to Big Bend National Park each year.
Beyond the pipeline’s environmental impact, area residents have flooded city and county meetings with concerns about public safety. The proposed route of the pipeline runs adjacent to the city of Alpine and through many of the region’s private ranches.
Emergency response teams around West Texas are largely voluntary, strapped for resources, and ill equipped to deal with a potentially volatile pipeline explosion.
Just last week, an ETP natural gas pipeline ruptured in southeastern Texas, sparking a fire that could be seen from 20 miles away, according to the Associated Press.