Lawsuit blames gas pipeline leaks for deaths of trophy deer

A lawsuit’s been filed in East Texas blaming a natural gas pipeline leak for the deaths of 40 trophy deer at a breeding operation near the Sam Houston National Forest.

The suit was by in Liberty County by Monty Mullenix and Greg Buford against the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co., which is a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan in Houston. They contend the leak released massive clouds of methane and toxic gases during two emergency shutdowns along the pipeline route.

They claim the deer, each valued at tens of thousands of dollars started dying after the releases. Kinder Morgan responded by stating there is no evidence the emergency releases killed the deer according to the Houston Chronicle.

“Lab results on the deer tested to date confirmed that those deer died from epizootic hemorrhagic disease, or EHD, a virus transmitted by small insects,” Kinder Morgan said in statement. “The company has worked, and continues to work, with the nearby landowners to remediate any impacts to their property. Tennessee Gas Pipeline has also offered to conduct additional testing at locations designated by the landowners.”

The releases occurred Nov. 14 and Dec. 10, according to the lawsuit. Cleanup crews dressed in hazmat suits used detergents such as liquid Dawn and Simple Green to remove an oily mist that had settled on homes, cars, vegetation and swimming pools, according to court documents.

Kinder Morgan said the Nov. 14 incident was caused by line sensor failure at a compressor station near Cleveland. The sensor failure activated the pipeline’s emergency shutdown system, which triggered a four-minute “blowdown” in which natural gas and other products are vented to prevent a pipeline from becoming overpressurized and blowing up.

Kinder Morgan said the residue removed by crews was tested and was determined to have no short-term or long-term impacts on people or livestock.

Breeding of deer, antelope and exotic game has become a $1 billion industry in Texas, where the majority of animals are sold to hunting ranches. Regulated by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, deer-breeding facilities have come under scrutiny the past few years in the effort to control diseases such as chronic wasting disease and EHD.