On Wednesday, the Texas Senate Nominations Committee — or, more accurately, a lone Republican Senator Brian Birdwell — heard testimony strongly opposed the nomination of Kelcy Warren to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Commission. Warren is the CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, the company responsible for the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Trans-Pecos and Comanche Trail pipelines in Texas.
Warren was nominated to the TPWC by Governor Greg Abbott in 2015, and has since participated at the committee's meetings. Perhaps it's only a coincidence that Warren personally contributed $550,000 to Gov. Abbott during his 2014 campaign, and dolled out almost $900,000 through Energy Transfer Partners in political contributions during that same time.
Opponents of Warren’s nomination to a body that's supposed to protect Texas parks and wildlife cite what they insist are several conflicts of interest, including his company's Trans-Pecos Pipeline. Members of the Big Bend Conservation Alliance and other advocacy groups say that the pipeline, which runs through the Rio Grande River and three West Texas counties, could contaminate local water sources.
Warren isn’t popular with West Texas ranchers, either. Despite their protests, ETP has exercised its power of eminent domain, forcing access to private property for construction of the pipeline. So far ETP has sued 39 landowners along the route of the Trans-Pecos Pipeline who wouldn't cooperate with the company’s plan.
In Wednesday's meeting, Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director of the Sierra Club’s Lone Star Chapter, described a November 2016 Commission meeting in which Warren opted out of a vote to approve a pipeline easement through the JD Murphree Wildlife Management area, citing conflict of interest. Reed expressed unease over Warren's extensive pipeline ties stating, “Warren’s nomination is a slap in the face to Texans who take seriously the preservation and protection of our treasured places."
Finally, Reed cited cases filed by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2008 and 2009 that show ETP and its subsidiaries strategically hiked natural gas prices in Houston before, during, and after Hurricane Rita. Warren’s company paid the oversight agencies some $40 million to settle those claims.
The fossil fuel tycoon, who is reportedly worth $4.4 billion, was not present at Wednesday's hearing meeting.
“We don’t know how many existing or proposed pipelines either intersect or otherwise affect Parks and Wildlife land that are associated in one way or another with Energy Transfer Partners, its parent - Energy Transfer Equity - or other entities connected to its parent," Reed said. "This really needs to be examined before the governor appoints someone like Kelcy Warren to carry out the mission of Parks and Wildlife."
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