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After 'give and take,' Energy Transfer to continue Comanche Trail construction


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After 'give and take,' Energy Transfer to continue Comanche Trail construction

Energy Transfer Partners LP will be able to proceed with construction of its Texas intrastate natural gas pipeline to the Mexico border after reaching a $5.4 million settlement with a local water district in Texas.

Energy Transfer's Comanche Trail Pipeline LLC reached the agreement with El Paso County Water Improvement District No. 1 on engineering solutions in places where the pipeline crosses irrigation facilities. With the settlement, Judge Frank Montalvo of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas dismissed the pipeline's lawsuit against the water district and lifted a temporary restraining order. Montalvo had placed the restraining order on the project in November until the parties could agree on construction and safety issues. (U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, El Paso Division, docket EP-16-CV-00444)

"There was some give and take from both sides," Jesus Reyes, general manager for the water district, said in a Dec. 20 interview.

Comanche Trail is expected to remain on track to come online in January 2017, according to Energy Transfer spokeswoman Vicki Granado, and an attached border-crossing facility is expected to be in service in April 2017.

"We are happy that the issue has been resolved," Granado said in a Dec. 20 email. "We can now move forward with the final two canal crossings and complete construction in a timely manner."

El Paso County had been concerned that installation of the pipeline 10 feet below the Franklin Canal could cause the canal to fail and cause damage to the pipeline, the county water supply and anyone near the pipeline. Reyes said part of the money from the settlement will be used to repair a section of canal that collapsed when the project drilled under it. The collapse occurred in September during the county's irrigation season. The Franklin Canal runs for about 31 miles. It was the first large irrigation project built along the Rio Grande, and it provides water for the area's crops — pecans and cotton.

Energy Transfer also agreed to pay the district to line the canal with concrete in places where the pipeline crosses under it. This solution will maintain the original 10-foot depth and will allow the company to keep in place any pipeline that was already installed, according to Reyes.

"[The concrete lining] was done for safety reasons for our employees and to make sure that no one in excavating and reshaping one of our canals would hit that pipeline," Reyes said.

The settlement required the project to get 16 licenses from the county for use of district property, including a license at the Franklin Canal, after recommendations from the water district's two engineers. The licenses will provide the county with information on the exact location and depth of the pipeline where it intersects county facilities.

"This is for protection 10, 15 years down the road," Reyes said, "when some of us have already left our employment here and new people come in and they'll ... know exactly what is there and be able to work around it safely."

In spite of the settlement, Reyes noted that concerns over the project remain. "Some of the community members are not very happy that the pipeline is close [to the San Elizario, Texas, city limits]," he said. "But in the last 10 years, there have been five or six other pipelines that have gone underneath safely ... We're satisfied that we did about everything we can do."

The Comanche Trail pipeline will connect to an Energy Transfer border-crossing pipeline that enters Mexico, the San Elizario project, which received FERC authorization for construction in July. The pipeline facilities will export 1.1 Bcf/d of gas from Texas to meet demand from Mexican electrical and industrial customers. (FERC docket CP15-503)