Does anyone think that putting a CEO from an energy company on the TPWD Commission is a bad idea? Link
Texas Parks and Wildlife increases security ahead of pipeline protest
Texas Parks and Wildlife officials have tightened security ahead of a meeting Thursday over concerns about threats involving one of its commissioners, who owns a pipeline company targeted by protesters over two projects.
Kelcy Warren, appointed to the board a year ago by Gov. Greg Abbott, is the CEO of Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, which is building the Trans-Pecos pipeline in the Big Bend region and the Dakota Access pipeline in the Great Plains.
Both oil and gas projects have led to bitter protests over issues involving climate change, water quality, and — in the Dakotas — tribal power. Standoffs in the Dakotas have been especially charged, with incidents involving security personnel and protesters drawing national attention.Now some of that glare is shining on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, whose members routinely rank among the highest political campaign donors to state Republicans — Warren himself has given more than $700,000 since 2013 to Texans for Greg Abbott.
As environmental groups prepared to convene at the commission’s meeting Thursday to protest Warren’s company’s work, a beefed-up security presence at the agency was noticeable: At a workshop Wednesday, where issues ranged from shad collection to oyster lease rules, authorities checked visitors with security wands and Texas game wardens ringed the hearing room.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department spokesman Josh Havens said, “Threats have been made but I cannot confirm whether or not those threats were received directly by the department or another entity.”
The Trans-Pecos pipeline, a nearly 150-mile natural gas pipeline through the Big Bend region, has won approval from federal authorities — but still faces opposition from residents of Fort Davis, Alpine and Marfa, among other places, who worry that its construction will destroy the landscape.
Warren, who runs a music studio and label in Austin, has already alienated some Texas musicians with his business dealings.But his political connections are nonpareil: Rick Perry, Abbott’s predecessor, sits on the Energy Transfer Partners board.
Protests over the Dakota Access pipeline project, a 1,172-mile pipeline designed to carry as many as 570,000 barrels of oil a day from the Dakotas through Iowa and Illinois, where it would hook up with a pipeline to Texas, have won more attention. In North Dakota, the pipeline is routed to cross beneath the Missouri River, not far from the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. Tribal leaders say the project could jeopardize the reservation’s water supply.
In September, the Obama administration ordered a shutdown of pipeline work beneath the river.
On Thursday, activists associated from groups ranging from Earth Guardians of El Paso to the Society of Native Nations are expected to appear at the Parks and Wildlife meeting, according to Dave Cortez, a Sierra Club organizer.
In many ways, the planned protests appear to be an opportunity to confront Warren directly, even if it’s at a meeting several states away from the pipeline sites.
At Wednesday’s workshop, one protester, Austinite Charlie Pierce, was on hand waving and pointing a finger at Warren, and sometimes blowing through a bone that hung around his neck like a pendant. Pierce was led out of the room a couple of times and asked not disrupt the proceedings.
“I was giving him the stink eye,” said Pierce, who said the security officials were cordial. “I was blowing at him as a way to attack him, to drive the spirit at him.”
In a September open letter, Warren called the criticism of the Dakotas project “unfounded.”
“I am confident that as long as the government ultimately decides the fate of the project based on science and engineering, the Dakota Access pipeline will become operational bringing a safer means of transportation to a much needed supply of oil to communities across the country,” he wrote.
Havens said the “Texas Parks and Wildlife Department respects the rights of individuals to express their opinions and encourages those who wish to demonstrate to do so peacefully and safely.”
The commission on Thursday could take up the matter of a pipeline easement in a Texas wildlife management area.
Some activists have called for Warren to recuse himself, pointing out possible associations between his company and the one asking for the easement.
Warren, through a spokesman, said “no conflict exists here.”
“Commissioner Warren will fully participate as an active member of the commission this week,” Havens said.