On Tuesday, a Texas judge ruled that Kinder Morgan Inc. does not need approval from the Texas energy regulator in order to start working on a $2 billion natural gas pipeline project. Based on the new ruling, land can be taken and utilized by pipeline operators, if they qualify as utilities, for the public good without landowner’s consent. Standards for routing pipeline projects or private land-takings are no longer required by the Texas Railroad Commission (TRC).
Prior to the ruling, a lawsuit was made by some Texas landowners and officials who argued the TRC was not properly supervising or seeking public approval for Kinder Morgan’s Permian Highway pipeline. Kinder Morgan’s counterargument was that the decision was in the state legislature’s hands when it came to changes in the pipeline permitting process.
Tom Martin, a Kinder Morgan Executive, stated after the ruling that, “the court’s finding validates the process established in Texas for the development of natural gas utility projects.”
The pipeline is set to be about 400 miles long, stretching from West Texas to the United States Gulf Coast and carrying 2 billion cubit feet every day of natural gas. Landowners worry that “sensitive environmental features,” along the lines of endangered species habitats, residential neighborhoods and historic sites, will be affected. An advocate for Texas landowner’s rights, the Texas Real Estate Advocacy and Defense Coalition, is considering further legal actions.