A huge sigh of relief was heard from residents from Quemado to Mountainair on the evening of Jan. 21 after Kinder Morgan announced the cancellation of its plans to build the massive Lobos CO2 pipeline through central New Mexico.
Some 1,100 landowners in three counties, health organizations and environmental groups including Sierra Club had registered their concerns for over a year about the pipeline’s impact on land values, road safety, water supplies and community health to Bureau of Land Management, Kinder Morgan representatives and elected officials.
The town of Mountainair formed a citizens group, Resistiendo — Resist the Pipeline, with over 60 members and hundreds of supporters. A committee of residents worked with the Partnership for a Healthy Torrance County and Human Impact Partners of Oakland, Calif., to complete dozens of interviews and prepare a history of people’s health, socioeconomic levels and occupations, water resources and cultural backgrounds in a comprehensive Health Impact Assessment. The document was to have been submitted to BLM once the Environmental Impact Statement draft was completed in 2015.
Kinder Morgan’s statement cited problems with delays of the project at a time when oil prices and demand for carbon dioxide, used for enhanced oil recovery, were bottoming out. Many landowners had refused to sign right-of-way easements, and Resistiendo had suggested a lower-impact route that avoided the majority of private properties in Torrance County as well as the critical Abo Watershed and dense areas of Salinas Missions ruins, prehistoric pueblo communities and burial mounds. This alternative would have entailed additional time.
BLM notified Kinder Morgan that it could still file a new application for a right-of-way grant at a later date. “If the company wants to come back to the project, then they would have to start from scratch,” said Mark Matthews, BLM project manager.
Resistiendo member Deb Jones summed up the group’s feelings.
“Members are cautiously optimistic that New Mexico will not be the site of another unwanted, unneeded pipeline that could do serious harm to our sensitive environment, cultural areas and critical watersheds.”