Interstate Pipelines Pose a Threat to the Drinking Water Supply for the Upper Middle Rio Grande Basin

Pipelines Under the Rio— 

These interstate and intrastate transmission pipelines in Sandoval County have been designated High Consequence Area (HCA) pipelines by PHMSA, meaning the threat of rupture and

San Bruno Explosion was due to aging infrastructure that was not reported by pipeline owners that corroded over time with pipelines that were highly pressurized for their age. Fines were levied despite pipeline owners rejection of liability.

an explosion is high, which would decimate the aquifer, drinking water supply, risk destroying property and cause physical harm and death throughout the County. The County Commission can pass several types of ordinances that protect citizens, property, and resources. However, at the last County meeting during the discussion items, the Commissioners appeared to unknowledgeable of solutions that they could legislate and support at the County level. We have some SandCO Recommended Comprehensive Plan Language -march2018 for them if they will listen.

State and Federal level legislation are needed and we have recommendations as to what that could be as we move forward.

  1. —5 PIPELINES: OVER 60 YEARS OLD KINDER MORGAN  CO2 line ( proposing additional hydrogen line (1), MARATHON CORP  (WAS TESORO CORP)  ( was Western Refining) gasoline (1),  ENTERPRISE (MID—AMERICAN PIPELINE WHO OWNS THREE OF THE LINES) CONTAIN: jet fuel, gasoline, diesel fuel, crude oil, natural gas liquid,ethane, propane, butane, natural gas, and carbon dioxide
Placitas and East Mountains Community Threat

Demographics: “To be affected”

  • I. over 6,000 residential homes and many doubled as businesses.
  • II. Elementary School abt. 100 feet away from the pipeline
  • III. Senior/Community Center with a pipeline running directly into the path of building and parking.
  • IV. Las Huertas de San Antonio Land Grant office less than 100 feet away.
  • V. Las Huertas Creek (acequia) water right grant (pipeline directly passing in and out through the creek).
  • VI. Water Basin – Supplies water to 2 Pueblo’s and to Albuquerque (largest urban City in New Mexico).
On MAY 9TH Stakeholders meeting Discussion with Commissioner Holden Rhodes, Elaine Cimino and NM PRC Pipeline Safety Bureau Chief Jason Montoya.  The meeting was held at the Call811 facility offices in Albuquerque, NM thanks to the State Agency being able to provide access to accommodate an open and transparent discussion on the issues of pipeline exposures in Placitas NM and the High Consequence Areas (HCAs) and the options for the Community to address an pipeline Mitigation Plan and address public safety and state of emergency to move an elementary school and Senior Center.
Operators were invited but they did not show and issued a statement prior to the meeting.
Several regulators were invited to make suggestions to the stakeholders and options to address this issue. REgualtoatros Included DOT PHMSA, BLM ABQ District office,  US ACE, the NM legislative Delegation Staff and a representative from the Office of the Attorney General attended the meeting.

Outcomes of meeting
Regulators recommendations on Pipeline DOTPHMSA, NM PRC, USACE, BLM, OAG
Discussion took place regarding the concerns of protecting the Water supply for the Upper Middle Rio Grande basin by working to help mitigate the issues from Erosion and Flooding that is causing the risk and threats to the pipelines. Considerations were given regarding IM risk integrity, responsibilities of the Operators, County, and Citizens/residents.
Despite a Mill tax that failed and succession from ESCAFCA district the responsibility now falls to the County for flood control. The operators, the County can apply for federal dollars through the USACE that will be able to address the Pipeline mitigation for flooding and erosion control.  Several homes in the area are at risk of being undermined, these homeowners are in the HCA and flood impact zone informed of risk and threats.
The County would have to also apply for matching fund for the LEPC upon which Common Ground Community Trust (CGCT)and other groups in the Area Las Placitas Association and Eastern Sandoval County Association along with state and federal regulators would be a part of to work on a Prevention and Mitigation plan for County. We want the prevention and mitigation plan, not a preparedness plan, which is different.
A suggestion was recommended that a Watershed Coalition organize to address the needs of the Watershed and move forward with a plan that addresses the issues. Las Placitas Association and Coronado Conservation and Soil District can apply for funding for Watershed Coalition, a Watershed District already exists and BOR funds may also be available that may be used for planning as a cash match, possibly.
Bill Woldman Senator Tom UDALL office suggested a meeting with the federal officials, officials of the County and Stakeholders to discuss planning and funding moving forward.  Various Groups a consulting with each other about these alternatives.
THE BIG NEWS — The BLM Albuquerque District Office will be coming forward with the RMP for Buffalo Tract soon. Very Soon.
CGCT will be contacting operators to assess the Potential Impact Radius (PIR) on the Senior Center and Elementary School and we will request that they submit mitigation plans on those areas in the HCA to DOT PHMSA and the NMPRC. Note: there are the following needed:
  • IM risk assessment on Pipeline PIR Impacts
  • Mitigation plans and an assessment on the NM PRC intrastate
  • Risk assessment for the impact of moving school, senior center vs. moving the southern route of the Pipeline. ($ est $60M) With the closure of existing pipeline to reroute for Safety reasons.
  • Apply for funding for LEPC for State
  • Apply for Funding for flooding Mitigation (USACE Community plan Dept) through USACE
  • Apply for funding for Watershed Coalition to integrate planning efforts BOR.
County will need assessment of the cost of financial responsibility on flooding issue and encroachments if they are unsuccessful at the mitigation planning or when a spill and explosion occurs.  A cost-benefit analysis must be done as well on the impacts of these projects.
Suggestions for Tribal Consultation were recommended for the Sandoval County Pueblos. there was Representation from santa Ana Pueblo at the meeting. Thank you!


Threats to Pueblos and Communities that the Interstate Transmission Pipelines Cross 

Pipelines like the Dakota Access Pipeline are not only a danger to the environment, but they trample indigenous rights.

Courtesy Democracy Now

Pipelines like the Dakota Access Pipeline are not only a danger to the environment, but they trample indigenous rights.

Fracking, Pipelines and Coal Projects Trample Indigenous Rights

Indigenous rights and environment affected when pipelines constructed

Indian communities were dismayed when President Donald Trump signed executive orders restarting construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL pipeline. Indian communities and environmentalists opposed both projects pointing out that sacred lands were jeopardized, as well as drinking water, treaty and indigenous rights.

The administration says it will renegotiate parts of the pipeline projects to conform better to Indian interests. However, one usually negotiates before making the key decision like moving a project forward. The two pipelines are similar to many projects that Indigenous Peoples want to have a voice in and even the power to prevent since they threaten sacred sites and jeopardize healthy communities.

Indigenous Peoples are confronted often with losses of land, in part because Indian lands are often relatively powerless to successfully oppose the building of dams, pipelines, oil drilling and other projects. The administration argues that thousands of good construction jobs will be created, but that is not necessarily true. American oil will find good prices while OPEC and oil-producing nations moderately decrease production to increase and stabilize higher oil prices. Both pipelines are designed to bring Alberta and Montana-North Dakota oil, produced from fracking and sand production, more efficiently to market. The encouragement of dubious resource extraction methods as well as increased oil consumption by themselves may create long-term environmental damage. Read More


New Energy Corridor (NEC) — It’s back! 

Public Commenting period on the New Energy Corridor plan comments due Feb 26 2018

Common Ground Community Trust sent these Public Comments 10127 on NEC plan_Final on Farmington to Rio Puerco  corridor-80-273 Sandoval County and Rio Grande corridor-81-272

Comments include:

  • —Discussion of new construction of pipelines coming into the state and protections on public awareness and notifications.
  • —Pipeline Notification Procedure on public awareness for counties statewide.
  • —Development of Consultation Zones in High Consequence Areas (HCAs) and New Constructions for public participation and input.
  • —Improved Pipeline Operator Responses and Information


Eminent Domain law in NM

Avoiding Eminent Domain

Pipeline companies that receive a certificate from FERC to construct and operate a pipeline and have been unable to acquire property that is necessary for the project may exercise their power of eminent domain by bringing a condemnation action in federal court if the property is valued at $3,000.00 or more.

Regardless of acreage, a property owner must be offered, and deny, a minimum of $3,000 before eminent domain may be used.

Eminent domain (ED) is very complex.  Most courts have upheld a company’s right to proceed with condemnation (ED) even if the pipeline company has not yet complied with all conditions of the FERC certificate or obtained all necessary permits.

However, in a recent case, known as “The Brandywine Five”, Ms. Carolyn Elefant, Esq. successfully represented five Chester County PA landowners in federal court opposing an eminent domain action.  “The Brandywine Five” decision to fight eminent domain was based on the lack of essential PA DEP permits.  The Judge denied a quick take (ED) by Williams Transco Pipeline in their Sentinel Project.  Within a year, the court acknowledged that The Brandywine Five’s efforts were a success and awarded attorneys’ fees.

This was a fairly significant victory.  If companies may be liable for fees, it may deter them from jumping the gun and marching into court to get possession before they have approved permits.  It also shows that states can make a difference; here, the state’s decision to hold the line on the water quality permits enabled The Brandywine Five to prevail.  This sets a precedent but with NM LAW eminent domain can still be challenged. it is Best to Discuss these issues with an attorney.

The federal court is a last resort; the county, state, and landowners need to intervene and participate extensively in the FERC process to gain whatever leverage they can to ovoid Eminent Domain.

Landowner’s guide to Eniment Domain from the Pipeline Safety Trust

What happens when pipelines come to town – a firsthand testimony from Asha Canalos


More Information From BLM on NEC
Farmington to the Rio Puerco 80-273 Mulitple high medium and low conflict zones

Section 368 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (the Act), Public Law 109-58 (H.R. 6), enacted August 8, 2005, directed the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, and the Interior to designate under their respective authorities corridors on federal land in 11 Western States (Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming) for oil, gas, and hydrogen pipelines and electricity transmission and distribution facilities (energy corridors) mapping tool

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), U.S. Forest Service (USFS), U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) issued a Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) on November 16, 2007 and a Final PEIS on November 20, 2008 that evaluated issues associated with the designation of energy corridors on federal lands in eleven Western states. The PEIS identified potential corridors; evaluated effects of potential future development within designated corridors; identified mitigation measures for such effects; and developed Interagency Operating Procedures (IOPs) applicable to planning, construction, operation, and decommissioning of future projects within the corridors.

Rio Grande Corridor 81-272 medium to high conflict area zones

Based upon the information and analyses developed in the PEIS, the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture signed Records of Decision (RODs) in 2009 designating Section 368 energy corridors by amending land and resource management plans on lands administered by their respective agencies in the eleven Western states.

The designation of energy transport corridors in land and resource management plans identified the preferred locations for development of energy transport projects on lands administered by the USFS and BLM. These locations were selected to avoid significant known resource and environmental conflicts, promote renewable energy development in the West, improve reliability, relieve congestion, and enhance the capability of the national grid to deliver electricity.

The IOPs are intended to expedite the permitting process; provide coordinated, consistent interagency management procedures for permitting rights of way (ROWs) within the corridors; and identify mandatory requirements for future projects.

The evaluation of future project-related environmental impacts must await site-specific proposals and the required site-specific environmental review. A quantifiable and accurate evaluation of impacts at the local project level can be made only in response to an actual proposed energy project when a proposal for an action with specific environmental consequences exists.

Settlement Agreement

In July 2009, the Wilderness Society, BARK, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, National Parks Conservation Association, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Oregon Natural Desert Association, Sierra Club, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Western Resource Advocates, Western Watersheds Project, and County of San Miguel, Colorado (Plaintiffs) filed a complaint against the Agencies challenging the PEIS, DOI and USFS RODs, and associated Section 368 energy corridor designations (Wilderness Society, et al. v. United States Department of the Interior, et al., No. 3:09-cv-03048-JW [N.D. Cal.]) pursuant to the Energy Policy Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. In July 2012, the BLM, USFS, Department of Energy (DOE), and the Department of Justice entered into a Settlement Agreement with the Plaintiffs that contains specific actions to resolve the challenges in the Complaint.

The four principal components of the Settlement Agreement require the Agencies to:

  1. Complete an interagency Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) addressing periodic corridor reviews;
  2. Update agency guidance;
  3. Update agency training; and
  4. Complete a corridor study.

The Settlement Agreement also identifies specific Section 368 “corridors of concern.” For more information about the Settlement Agreement, including timeline, documents, implementation of periodic reviews, agency guidance and training, and the corridor study, see the Settlement Agreement page.