Environmental and Energy Law Blog

Monday, January 16, 2017

Energy Protestors Coming to West Texas

How much oil and natural gas have been discovered in the Permian Basin?

Back in November, we reported on the concerns of community and environmental groups over the oil and natural gas drilling slated for the Permian Basin near Balmorhea State Park. There are presently two production initiatives in play: Apache Corp's plan to sink about 3,000 wells over the next 20 years to tap the oil and gas reserves, and a pipeline being built by Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) from the basin to Mexico.

Now, taking a page from playbook of the Dakota Access pipeline protestors, opponents of energy production intend to open camps near Bog Bend National Park, Big Bend Ranch State Park and Balmorhea. A consortium of environmental advocacy and community groups, including the Big Bend Defense Coalition and the Society of Native Americans, are joining forces in order to block the drilling and pipeline development.

The American Indian advocacy group was instrumental in organizing the protests in North Dakota. That pipeline, when completed, is designed to carry oil from the Bakken Shale to a network of pipelines in the Midwest that hook up with Gulf Coast refineries. That section of the pipeline is on hold since the Obama administration did not grant the permit needed to complete the project. However, some observers believe the incoming Trump administration will give the project the go ahead.

Now that the winter months have set-in, the Dakota Access campers are looking for a new home, and some of the activists have their sights fixed upon West Texas in an attempt to block the Trans-Pecos pipeline being built by ETP. The first camp opened in late December while a second camp, the so called Two Rivers Camp in Casa Piedra, has plans for 200 to 300 activists to be one the ground over the next month.

A third camp is planned for Tonyvale near Balmorhea where local residents who own about 400 acres of land have set aside 30 acres for the camp. They've been clearing the land of tumbleweeds and rolling in Porta-Potties, and the camp is slated to open in early January.

The Takeaway

Whether the activists will be able to halt the development of these facilities is doubtful, and a larger question is who is funding these efforts. Nonetheless, both Apache Corp and Energy Transfer Partners have invested time and capital in developing these projects and have been working with the local community to address their concerns. In the end, disputes over the continued development of energy resources in West Texas require the advice and counsel of an experienced health, safety and environmental law attorney.

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