Pipeline protesters gather in Alpine, TX. (Big Bend Conservation Alliance)
Federal regulators are preparing an environmental review of part of the planned Trans-Pecos Pipeline, the Permian Basin to Mexico natural gas project led by Dallas-based Energy Transfer.
The study will be used in deciding whether the project receives a government permit it needs to move forward.
Last week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) announced it would perform an “environmental assessment” of about 2,000 feet of the pipeline project near the border – the only part that falls under federal jurisdiction.
The rest of the pipeline’s proposed 143-mile route is regulated by the Texas Railroad Commission.
In its announcement, FERC said the assessment will be used “to determine whether the project is in the public interest.”
Regulators will also include “available descriptions” of the entire project in the environmental review. The Big Bend Conservation Alliance (BBCA), an opposition group, calls that an unusual move on the part of the federal agency, and a direct response to citizen concerns about the pipeline.
Opponents say it’s an “early success” in their effort to stop the pipeline from being built.
“In this first step, FERC will complete an Environmental Assessment (EA) for the proposed project as a whole,” the BBCA said in a press release.
But the commission says that’s not exactly the case.
“The notice doesn’t state that at all,” said commission spokesperson Tamara Young-Allen. “It’s a misunderstanding of FERC’s jurisdictional reach.”