Big Bend Conservation Alliance Discusses Pipeline Impact at Marfa ISD

Big Bend Conservation Alliance Discusses Pipeline Impact at Marfa ISD

MARFA, TX (KWES) - Members of the Big Bend Conservation Alliance (BBCA) are continuing their fight to stop the Trans-Pecos Pipeline and "protect the last frontier."

The non-profit group held a public meeting Tuesday night at Marfa High School as part of their ongoing effort to inform the community of the controversial project's potential effects. The proposed 42-inch natural gas pipeline, backed by Dallas-based Energy Transfer, would span 143 miles from Waha to Ojinaga, Mexico, supplying fuel to northern, western and central portions of the country.

"I don't think the company has been straightforward with the community about what the pipeline entails," said BBCA member Katie Smithers, who led Tuesday's meeting. "So we have meetings like this to bring more information to the public, hopefully to be more transparent."

The group's latest goal is to clarify how the pipeline would impact local tax revenue, she said.

The Trans-Pecos Pipeline - although not the gas it transports - would generate revenue in the counties it passes through. Figures from Energy Transfer suggest $1M of ad valorem tax money would go to Brewster County, while an estimated $1.4M would go to Pecos County and $1.9M to Presidio County. An additional $2.8M has yet to be allocated.

Within Presidio, the money would be distributed across the county's taxing entities - including the City of Presidio, the Presidio Independent School District, the hospital district and the Marfa Independent School District - explained BBCA researcher Coyne Gibson. Andrew Peters, Superintendent of Marfa ISD, said the largest portion of the revenue - about 80 percent - would go to his school district, due to the pipeline's planned route through the county.

"It will provide additional funds to the district for operations, which means more funds for curriculum, teachers [and] the infrastructure upkeep," he told the audience at Tuesday's meeting, where he took the stage as a guest speaker. "We've been in deferred maintenance mode at Marfa ISD for years."

However, the district likely will not receive the full 80 percent of the estimated $1.9M of ad valorem tax revenue, said Peters. The exact amount will not be known until they begin collecting tax dollars from the pipeline in January 2018, he explained.

Smithers told NewsWest 9 the project is "too complicated" for community members to make well-informed decisions without understanding the full impact of the Trans-Pecos Pipeline.

"We just want to get the facts out there," she said. "There are a lot of strong opinions about this and [Big Bend residents] deserve to have their questions answered."