Kinder Morgan Inc. has restarted construction activities along the Permian Highway Pipeline (PHP), one day after contractors discovered a “suspicious package” at a work site in Blanco, in the Texas Hill Country.
Kinder immediately halted work in the immediate vicinity and secured the area after the “device” was found. The construction area was thoroughly inspected by PHP and law enforcement before full construction activities resumed Tuesday.
The incident is still under active investigation, and the device’s contents were being assessed by law enforcement agencies, according to Kinder spokesperson Melissa Ruiz. Kinder is “assisting in the ongoing investigation into this criminal activity” and indicated it would “prosecute any individuals who are discovered to be threatening the safety or security of our employees and crews.”
PHP was recently cleared by a district court in Texas to continue building the contested West Texas conduit. In his ruling, Judge Robert Pitman said although the Sierra Club’s allegations of noncompliance by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers “come close” to demonstrating harm to the environment, they ultimately fall short of showing “irreparable harm at this juncture.”
The ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club in April that alleged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, arguing that a more indepth environmental review of the PHP project was needed. It cited a March horizontal directional drilling incident during construction that caused a 36,000 gallon drilling fluid spill east of Blanco.
The Sierra Club in June then requested a preliminary injunction to halt construction across 129 waterways (Sierra Club v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers et al, No. 1:20-CV-460). Kinder was an intervenor for the defense.The pipeline has been plagued with litigation since it was launched, with the ongoing legal battles cited in management’s decision to push back the targeted startup to early 2021, from this October. Kinder has since reaffirmed the 42-inch diameter, 430-mile pipeline would be completed in 2021. In July, management indicated a reroute around a river crossing was underway. At that time, the system was about 80% mechanically complete, with mainline compression 97% complete.
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