ONEOK pipeline subject of federal lawsuit by environmental groups


ONEOK is facing a legal challenge over its pipeline project designed to carry large amounts of methane gas from West Texas to Mexico. Critics say it will be dangerous and government approval came after flawed analyses.

The Sierra Club and Public Citizen announced they filed suit against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for its approval of ONEOK’s Saguaro Connector Pipeline. The gas from the Permian Basin wll be shipped to Mexico with the purpose in mindd of being liquefied and exported to Asia.

 The organizations will argue in the D.C. Circuit Court that FERC improperly limited its review to only 1,000 feet of the pipeline – just a fifth of a mile – when the law requires a more thorough analysis – including climate and community impacts – of the entire 157 miles of the pipeline in the U.S.

The lawsuit comes after Sierra Club and Public Citizen requested that FERC reconsider the Saguaro approval due to these flaws, but FERC failed to act on the request, resulting in a de facto rejection. The pipeline would threaten vulnerable communities, waterways, and cultural sites along its route; would pose a significant risk of rupture due to seismic activity and local hydrological features; and would lock us into decades of increased gas development and export, increased climate-warming emissions, and higher domestic gas prices.

In announcing the lawsuit, the two environmental groups claimed ONEOK would not only build and own the Texas portion of the pipeline but would also be “seizing landowners’ property and placing them at risk of leaks, fires, groundwater contamination, and explosions.”

The two groups further stated that not a single federal or state agency had evaluated the risks of the pipeline passing through communities, such as Van Horn. Mexican Pacific Limited, a Houston-based company, would build and own the 500-mile connecting pipeline infrastructure in Mexico and the liquified natural gas (LNG) export terminal in Puerto Libertad, Sonora. LNG companies have been looking for a faster, cheaper way to ship their methane gas to Asia by avoiding the Panama Canal, but states along the U.S. West Coast – and their more affluent white residents – have successfully fought such polluting export facilities.

“Ever since FERC approved the Saguaro pipeline after doing one of the most flawed analyses we’ve seen the agency conduct, we knew it was necessary to push back,”said Doug Hayes, attorney for the Sierra Club’s Environmental Law Program. “FERC rubber-stamps every oil and gas project it considers, so we must try to seek justice for the impacted communities along the pipeline’s entire path, and ensure that climate change is considered as Texans face another summer of record-breaking heat, potential grid blackouts, and more extreme storms.”

“The Saguaro pipeline will harm communities and property owners along its entire 157-mile path through Texas, but it will not benefit American consumers because the gas it will transport is destined for Asia,” said Tyson Slocum, Public Citizen’s Energy Program Director. “FERC understood this but arbitrarily limited its environmental analysis to only .12% of the pipeline’s entire length. With this lawsuit, we seek to ensure that FERC cannot turn a blind eye to all of the environmental harms caused by the Saguaro project.”

“We’re already grappling with failing water infrastructure and potential risks that threaten our water supply further, such as increased seismic activity from fracking and contamination by pipeline companies as evidenced by past incidents in towns like Blanco, Texas,” said Yolanda Carmona, a resident of Van Horn. “The presence of such a pipeline could deter potential businesses from investing in our town, halting the much-needed economic growth and development we strive for.”

“ONEOK wants to build their dangerous infrastructure through a low-income, rural area of Texas, just so it can establish a cheaper way to ship methane gas to Asia without having to go through the Panama Canal,” said Bill Addington, a local community member. “This is the opposite of environmental justice, and it speaks volumes that FERC refused to consider the full impacts of the project. These lands are sacred, and our communities and fragile desert ecosystems should not be saddled with all the impacts of a gas export project that will only benefit some out-of-state corporation.”

Source: press release