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Alliance calls for more development controls

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Members of the Bandera Canyonlands Alliance who packed the Utopia senior center on Saturday, Oct. 12, were happy that a planned crude oil pipeline was being rerouted around the Edwards Aquifer and other environmentally sensitive property in the area but were upset that they had so little control over where potentially hazardous projects may be established in the future.

“Oil and gas is important in Texas, but there needs to be some restrictions on what those companies can do on private property,” said Merry Langlinais, who is president of the alliance, during one of the breaks it its fall meeting. “We need remedies from the legislature to address that problem.”

Members of the alliance, which was formed in 2007 to protect the natural beauty of the land and the rural way of life in western Bandera County into Real and Uvalde counties, became alarmed in recent weeks over a 30-inch, crude oil pipeline that was being planned across the area as a link between Midland oilfields and a distribution system in the Eagle Ford Shale area of South Texas.

Those concerns disappeared when the pipeline’s developer, Enterprise Products Partners L.P. of Houston, said it would be relocated away from the environmentally sensitive property over the Edwards Aquifer and the huge swath of land that feeds rainwater and surface water into the aquifer.

Langlinais said oil-and-gas interests have broad powers to establish routes for their pipelines with no advance notice to landowners and limited governmental controls that would require the pipelines to relocate in the face of public opposition.

The only reason Enterprise Products decided to reroute its line was because it needed to cross property where the Edwards Aquifer Authority or the City of San Antonio, which draws almost all of its drinking water from the aquifer, had acquired conservation easement that could make it difficult for a pipeline to be constructed.

Many oil and gas distribution companies have been granted the power of eminent domain which allows them to acquire property for pipelines or other projects even when a landowner opposes them.

Langlinais and other alliance officials feel that has left landowners all but powerless in their negotiations with development interest over projects deemed unacceptable environmentally.

They plan to address state legislative leaders to see if regulations can be established that give landowners advance notice of where pipelines are being planned and create the opportunity for the public to have input on where those lines should go.

The alliance also heard from Margo Denke with the Friends of Hondo Canyon talk about the work that organization is doing in the Tarpley area to combat a wastewater treatment permit sought by the builder of a Christian youth camp because of the detrimental effects it is expected to have on Commissioners Creek and Hondo Creek.

Denke sought to strengthen bonds with the alliance as her organization pushes its challenge of the wastewater permit, a challenge which she believes will result in a more formal administrative hearing on the proposed permit than that conducted so far.