Pipeline opposition coalescing

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A lot has happened in the year since landowners first received notice from Kinder Morgan about the proposed construction of a carbon dioxide pipeline across New Mexico.

The Bureau of Land Management held public meetings, wrapped up the scoping period in late January, and began working on an Environmental Impact Statement. In the meantime, private citizens formed a 77-member Google group "Resistiendo: Resist the Kinder Morgan CO2 Pipeline!"

"We met with Valencia, Socorro, and Catron county residents and met with congressional staff for Sens. (Tom) Udall, (Martin) Heinrich, (Rep. Michelle) Lujan Grisham," said Susan Bunnell, a Mountainair landowner whose property may be affected by the pipeline. "The land-grant communities are involved. Probably one of the most exciting things for me is to see how all the different landowners have come together from diverse communities."

Kinder Morgan wants to construct a 213-mile pipeline transporting carbon dioxide from Apache County, Ariz., to the Cortez pipeline in Torrance County. To do so they will cross state-owned, tribal and federal lands, as well as private property. The company injects carbon dioxide into oil fields in eastern New Mexico and Texas to increase production.

Following a heavily attended public information meeting in January, residents of Mountainair and surrounding areas have been emailing one another, researching pipelines across the country and solidifying their opposition. Community members approached the Partnership for a Healthy Torrance County, who agreed to collaborate with other groups to conduct a Health Impact Assessment.

Next Monday, Partnership for a Healthy Torrance Community, the New Mexico Department of Health, Human Impact Partners and community members will hold a public meeting seeking help in identifying how the pipeline could affect the health of residents and which specific impacts the HIA should focus on. HIP is an organization working across the states — including other regions of New Mexico — to assess the impact of projects and policies on the health of low-income communities.

"The point of the assessment is to inform the process," explained Patricia Lincoln, a representative of Partnership for a Healthy Torrance County. "We'll look at the historical and cultural impact, the people's connection to the land and place, the economic impact, water, and health and safety. From a health council standpoint, we'll collect all information that is pertinent and bring that to the community decision makers."

Lincoln said this information can the be used when the Torrance County Commission has to approve or deny a special use permit for county lands, but the health council will not be involved in making the decision. They hope to fast-track the assessment and have it completed by mid-September before the BLM presents the Environmental Impact Statement.

The community input meeting will be June 9 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Alpine Alley, 201 N. Summit Ave., Mountainair.