..,.,. :-., :,-,. , , \\ ..\\ ..\\ ‘ \\–\\\\ \\ , Cs s . ,..\\ .\\”N \\ N N .. e ,. : \\,.., , Alt, \\ \\ \\ . \\ and pipeliners fight; consumers lose and terminate near Houston. Brown and Root’s WYTEX line, still in the early planning stages, would run 1,260 miles from Montana and Wyoming to the Texas coast, carry about 22 million tons a year, cost $1.5 billion to build and $102 million annually to operate. An 820-mile Colorado-to-Texas line, to open in 1980, would bring about 15 million tons of fuel to Houston. The combined, 37 million tonnage of the two lines is somewhere between “one-third” and “all” of the coal Texas will need to import by the mid-1980s, depending on whose figures you accept. The coal will fuel Texas electric companies now under federal orders to switch from natural gas to coal-fired generators. Of 26 new facilities being built or in the planning stage, 15 will use Western coal. The rest will depend on Texas’ plentiful but lower-grade lignite. Some companies are already complaining about the expense of rail transportation and are looking to pipelines as a cheaper alternative. Of course, consumers will pay to move the coal, whether in rail cars or through pipelines. The added cost they’ll bear for imported energy is only the start; however the coal comes, it will be ecologically expensive. Pipeliners have influential friends, starting with President Carter, who says the railroads can’t carry all the Western coal the have-not states will need under his energy program. The railroads, distinctly uninterested in aiding their competitors by allowing pipelines to pass under established rights-of-way, have their lobbies and congressional mouthpieces. This time around, the public had no one. The Sierra Club and other environmental groups, perhaps uncomfortable at being in bed with the rails, have said little. Describing the situation in Texas, Lloyd Doggett, one of the few legitimate consumer advocates in the Legislature, explained, “There’s nobody to defend the environment or advocate for it.” But slurry-bill sponsors Rep. Joe Hanna and Sen. Max Sherman could number among their supporters Gov. Dolph Briscoe, Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby, Atty. Gen. John Hill, the Texas Railroad Commission, the AFL-CIO Building Trades Council, the Texas Municipal League, and the Texas Electric Co-op Association. House Speaker Billy Clayton, an old friend of railroad lobbyist Walter Caven, professed neutrality. Virtually every major daily newspaper in the state endorsed the pipeliners’ efforts to win eminent domain. Editorial writers cited a need for competition in the hauling of coal as the major reason for their endorsement. The Corpus Christi Caller-Times declared on Feb. 18 that “the Legislature would best serve Texas by approving the slurry pipeline bill.” One month later, the Caller changed its mind, asking legislators to amend the bill to assure environmental safeguards and to entrust regulation of the pipelines to the Public Utilities Commission, instead of the Railroad Commission. “After a recent reported break in the only slurry-coal pipeline in operation, we have had second thoughts about the subject.” Well they might, since the break “blackened a vast area in the [Arizona] desert,” and a Texas pipeline will run across good Texas farmland. However, the Legislature rejected a series of amendments which offered at least token environmental protection. Given an opportunity to regulate pipelines through the PUC, instead of through the Railroad Commission, the state’s least consumer-oriented agency, legislators chuckled and voted “no.” In fact, there were belly laughs in both houses as well-known friends of the railroads tried to amend the bill by donning consumer advocate and environmentalist caps. Watching the likes of Bill Heatly and Bill Moore carry the Sierra Club banner in the House and Senate was too much for most members. There was very little argument or discussion on the amendments. “They were presented in a very frivolous way. It was all kind of laughed off and voted down,” says Doggett. July 1, 1977 7
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