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Alpine City Council To Continue Pipeline Discussions

Alpine City Hall pictured in 2015 (Travis Bubenik)

The Alpine City Council will continue discussion on the planned Trans-Pecos Pipeline at Tuesday's council meeting.

On the agenda: a proposal to allow Mayor Avinash Rangra to ask the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to deny a presidential permit for the pipeline.

That's the approval the pipeline needs from the federal government to connect at the U.S.-Mexico border with another pipeline stretching from the Mexican side.

Presidential permits are required for a wide range of infrastructure projects on the border. Energy Transfer, the Dallas-based company behind the pipeline, applied for such a permit in late May.

Rangra has recently come out against the pipeline, telling KRTS he's concerned about its safety and what he sees as a lack of transparency from the pipeline company.

The proposed resolution, put on the agenda by Rangra, contains strong language against the pipeline, saying it would potentially endanger "lives of 7,000 plus citizens in and around 'Greater Alpine.'"

At Tuesday's meeting, the council will also take up a proposed resolution from council member Rick Stephens to try and have the pipeline built by stricter federal safety regulations.

Stephens wants to see the Trans-Pecos Pipeline pipeline built under "Class 3" federal pipeline safety standards, as opposed to the "Class 1" standards currently required.

Those classifications define the area around a pipeline according to the number of homes located near the pipeline's path.

He said Alpine's population - higher than the average for Brewster County as a whole - warrants the increased safety standards.

Stephens said he's heard from pipeline supporters and opponents, but that he doesn't consider it within the city's purview to take a stance on the issue.

"But when it comes to ensuring that if the pipeline is built, that it's built to a better standard than just a normal rural environment, then I think that makes sense," he said.

Still, Stephens echoed the concerns of Mayor Rangra over what both officials described as a lack of direct communication from Energy Transfer.

"ETP, in my view, has some work to do when it comes to the dialogue with the citizens of Brewster County," he said.

Energy Transfer spokesperson Vicki Granado wouldn't comment on the effort to increase safety standards, other than to say the company "will construct the pipeline to meet all the appropriate rules and regulations."

When asked for comment on Rangra's most recent proposal, and his broader concerns about the pipeline, Granado said "the analysis for granting the Presidential Permit requires that FERC look only at the border crossing facilities."

Correction: A previous version of this article stated Energy Transfer applied for a presidential permit "earlier this month" (in June.) That application was filed on Thursday, May 28th.

Travis Bubenik is All Things Considered Host and Big Bend Reporter at Marfa Public Radio.