Dozens of NM landowners battle proposed pipeline

Posted at: 12/22/2013 10:52 PM
Updated at: 12/22/2013 10:53 PM
By: Ryan Luby, KOB Eyewitness News 4

More than a dozen landowners in New Mexico have begun to organize an effort to stop the construction of a proposed pipeline.

Kinder Morgan, a large energy company based in Houston, would like to transport liquid carbon dioxide from Apache County, Ariz. to Torrance County, N.M.

The pipeline, which would be known as the Lobos Pipeline, would stretch roughly 214 miles.

Mike Mechenbier, one of the largest landowners in New Mexico who would be affected by the pipeline, said he received notice from Kinder Morgan over the summer.

“They wanted to access the ranch to do a [land] survey,” he said.

Initially, Mechenbier said he denied the company’s request, but eventually met with company representatives face-to-face.

Since then, he has become increasingly alarmed by the company’s operations.

Mechenbier pointed to a natural gas pipeline that Kinder Morgan already operates and maintains through his property.  The company acquired it when it merged with El Paso Pipeline Partners.

“It’s actually exposed in places,” he said of the pipeline.  He said heavy rains in August and September washed away a lot of dirt around it.

 Mechenbier said he contacted El Paso Pipeline Partners’ maintenance representatives directly.

“They came out, they viewed it.  They said since Kinder Morgan had purchased them, their maintenance budget had gotten slashed and there wasn’t a whole lot they could do about it,” he said.

4 On Your Side is unable to determine Kinder Morgan’s current maintenance priorities since the company has declined requests for an interview.

In September, according to several reports, the company’s billionaire chairman denied claims that the company cut its maintenance spending after an analyst at a risk management firm challenged it.

Mechenbier said he supports the need for new infrastructure across the country, but worries another pipeline comes with similar problems.

“It’s going to be a continual maintenance problem for them.  And they haven’t demonstrated any responsibility of that yet,” he said.

Earlier this month, he joined other New Mexico landowners as they met with company representatives and Bureau of Land Management officials in five meetings across the state.

 A handful of landowners spoke with 4 On Your Side off-camera and said they felt as though the company did not care about their concerns.

“Then we found out they have eminent domain powers,” Mechenbier said.

 He said he fears that the company will not value public comment and concern as much as it should.

 “So, you buck ‘em, and they’re going to bulldoze through here with it,” Mechenbier said pessimistically.

 Kinder Morgan said it has not finalized the proposed pipeline’s route.  Once it moves further along in the permitting process, representatives said they might grant an interview with KOB Eyewitness News 4.