What must New Mexicans give up for a CO2 pipeline?

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By Rebecca Anthony, Mountainair resident, and Teresa Seamster 03/14/14

What are New Mexicans sacrificing to global companies like Kinder-Morgan by being compelled to grant easements so hazardous materials can be piped across hundreds of miles of private, public and tribal lands?

This January, in a packed meeting hall in the Alpine Alley Café in Mountainair, residents, ranchers and surrounding landowners listened and asked questions for hours on what a proposed carbon-dioxide pipeline could do to their community.
Kinder-Morgan backed out of the meeting at the last minute, though they had scheduled the time and date, because the community had invited members of the media.

Health risks, maintenance violations, water and degradation of archaeological sites were topics addressed by a panel of speakers representing Sierra Club Northern New Mexico Group, National Park Service, New Mexico Historic Preservation District, Partnership for a Healthy Torrance County and local landowners.

Resitiendo (Resist the Kinder-Morgan CO2 Pipeline) members spoke eloquently about their deep concerns, the impact on ranching and their devotion to the land.

Gloria Zamora, Leonora Romero and Fedelina Padilla, from Padilla Ranch along the proposed route, vowed to refuse Kinder-Morgan’s offer for easements and threat of eminent domain, and to fight to keep the pipeline off their lands.

Highest on the list of concerns is how to stop the pipeline, or at least move the route away from population centers, and protect water resources. Maps show a mix of 60 percent private lands and 40 percent public, state and tribal lands on the proposed pipeline route. Some 240 riparian areas, streams and rivers, including the Rio Puerco and Rio Grande, are on the route and at risk of contamination and water loss through dredging and excavation.

While some pipeline companies drill as deep as 100 feet under streams and rivers to protect them from future leaks or contamination, and 10 feet under agricultural or ranch land, Kinder-Morgan routinely buries its pipeline as little as 36 inches deep across people’s land and 20 inches under river beds.

Kinder-Morgan started scoping meetings in 2013, prematurely sending survey crews onto landowners’ properties and discussing easements before a route was formally proposed or approved by the Socorro office of the BLM. The scoping meeting in Mountainair was contentious, with residents asking about gas leaks, accidents, land values and pipeline construction and getting answers like “we haven’t gotten there yet” and “we’ll have to get back to you.”

This is one brief exchange:
Page 13: Ms. Draker: “Can you give us a worst-case scenario so we can understand what CO2 is? Let’s say there’s a rupture; what happens in Loma Park?
Mr. Curbow (Lobos Pipeline project manager and engineer): “I’m sorry. I don’t have an answer for that because I don’t…”
Ms. Draker: “Well, you should. I mean, this is your business.”
Mr. Curbow: “I don’t know… I don’t know. And I understand that.”

The answer not provided by the Kinder-Morgan team can be found in “Carbon Dioxide Pipeline Risk Analysis — HECA Project Site,” a report done for Kern County, California: “A worst-case scenario” for a “rupture or large hole” in a pipeline for a few minutes of CO2 release before shutdown could occur is “multiple deaths and serious prolonged health impacts.”

The Lobos Pipeline route is supposed to connect the CO2 gas fields in St. John, Ariz., to oil fields in Denver City, Texas, where the gas will be used for enhanced oil recovery. The route through New Mexico could impact the counties of Catron, Socorro, Torrance, Lincoln, Chavez and Lea. BLM will decide on the application after an Environmental Impact Study is released this fall.