The Big Bend region of Texas is one of the last unspoiled regions in the U.S. By engaging with communities, agencies and policy makers, BBCA works to ensure that new growth considers the ability to sustain the ecology, natural resources, heritage, and economy of the region.
CURRENT AND RECENT EFFORTS:
US 67 Corridor Management Plan
The BBCA has been an active stakeholder in this study since the beginning (12/2017), with involvement in the overall stakeholder’s committee as well as the Natural Resources/ Environmental and Pedestrian/ Bicyclist sub-committees.
And now Texas Department of Transportation (TX-DoT) wants to HEAR FROM YOU by using their brief on-line survey regarding the US-67 Corridor.
Be part of the process and make a real contribution to the future of this region!
TX-DoT is gathering data about how area residents feel about highway 67, running from Presidio thru Marfa and Alpine and up towards I-10. In light of increasing traffic (that will likely only increase in the future) they want to know our concerns, comments, and suggestions.
US-67 Corridor Study project websites are:
INTERACTIVE MAPS: https://maps.viewprogis.com/vp/us67
TXDOT HOMEPAGE LINK: https://www.txdot.gov (Search: US 67 Corridor Master Plan)
FERC Legislation comes to a close
D.C. Circuit Court Denies BBCA Lawsuit Against Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Approval of Trans-Pecos Pipeline
Alpine – On July 17, 2018, the Big Bend Conservation Alliance (BBCA) received notification that its appeal of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) approval of the Trans-Pecos Pipeline was denied by the D.C. Circuit Court. Trans-Pecos Pipeline LLC (TPP), a company controlled by Energy Transfer Partners, had intervened on behalf of FERC to defend the reasoning behind its permit petition before the D.C. Circuit Court.
The BBCA’s case before the court involved three arguments:
1) The Trans-Pecos Pipeline should have been considered under Section 3 of the Natural Gas Act 1938 because the pipeline is an export facility.
2) The Trans-Pecos Pipeline should have been considered an interstate pipeline, i.e. a pipeline that crosses state lines, rather than an “intrastate” pipeline, i.e. a pipeline that is solely operated within a single state, as the company claimed. This is an important distinction because pipelines that cross state lines are subject to stricter federal oversight, while pipelines within a single state are subject only to state jurisdiction. Regulations on pipelines in Texas are virtually non-existent. BBCA bases its argument on TPP’s application to FERC, in which it claimed the pipeline would “initially” transport Texas-sourced gas but would “later begin service under Section 311,” in other words switch to transporting gas from other states after a certain period of time.
In reality, the pipeline only moved Texas-sourced gas for five months. The pipeline then began to move gas from across state lines, making it an interstate pipeline subject to stricter federal jurisdiction. Although the court admitted it could “imagine a pipeline operator submitting an artificially narrow application in order to evade federal regulation,” it asserted “this is not such a case.” BBCA disagrees and argues that the scheme TPP used in the wording of its petition did create an artificially narrow application with the purpose of avoiding federal oversight.
Furthermore, TPP exploited a loophole in the Natural Gas Policy Act called Section 311, which allows intrastate pipelines to move gas across state lines without federal environmental oversight. The BBCA argued this loophole is intended for existing pipelines, not for construction of new pipelines. Allowing new pipelines to use this loophole creates a situation in which nearly any pipeline that has access to some intrastate gas can avoid federal oversight (and thus comprehensive environmental review) as long as that intrastate gas runs through the pipeline for an initial short period of time. This allowance thwarts the intention of the Natural Gas Policy Act and the purpose of Section 311.
3) Lastly, BBCA argues the pipeline was illegally segmented into one small 1093-foot segment at the border that received federal oversight and a 148-mile segment that did not. Under the Commission for Environmental Quality and the National Environmental Policy Act, a project that is continuous and connected should be considered as a whole. TPP only conducted a cursory environmental analysis of the 148-mile segment. The BBCA asserted FERC should have considered the project as a whole and conducted a full environmental review for the entire pipeline project.
The court struck the BBCA’s first argument on a technicality, stating that the BBCA had not presented this argument to FERC before the suit and instead raised it as a new argument on appeal to the court. Appellate proceedings do not allow new arguments to be raised in an appeal and the court declined to address that element of the BBCA’s appeal on those grounds.
The court accepted the remaining arguments for consideration. But in the end, it dismissed both, favoring FERC’s and TPP’s arguments and giving deference to other decisions FERC has made regarding different pipelines. It upheld the fiction of the Trans-Pecos Pipeline as two segments, approving TPP’s scheme to ensure the vast majority of the pipeline was exempt from meaningful environmental review.
In simple terms it was “business as usual” with the court deferring to the agency and favoring the interests of industry. Due to the virtually non-existent avenues for further appeal, combined with the status of the Trans-Pecos Pipeline, the BBCA can find no fruitful road forward for continued appeal. As with the citizen comment period before the pipeline was actually approved, the BBCA has now exercised all available legal due process to its fullest following construction of the pipeline. In the specific instance of the Trans-Pecos Pipeline and associated FERC Presidential Permit, no further legal proceedings are worthwhile within the current regulatory environment.
Industrial projects in the region (proposed and active). Map created in 2016.