Our part of Texas is special. Remember the "Don't Mess With Texas" motto? That applies out here, too. It's about respect. We don't take kindly to outsiders potentially messing in our neighborhoods or with our way of life.
The consortium of companies that make up the Trans-Pecos Pipeline Ltd., have shown little to no respect for our area - a bad sign. Respect requires consultation - and long beforehand. It's not a good practice to come in and announce the project as a done deal. The trucks were already here when the conversation started.
The pipeline companies had a chance to start off on the right foot. They could've come in and met with science classes at local schools, clubs and organizations, governmental bodies and even neighbors over dinner. All of this should've been done before they turned a single blade of grass.
Now, those companies seems surprised that there is so much opposition - but they would've known that if they'd gotten to know the community first.
West Texans are not unreasonable people. We know that when we turn on our gas stoves, the gas comes to us through a pipeline. We have no objection to seeing increased access to natural gas for our neighbors or to hearing about the potential economic benefits of projects like this.
However, once a big portion of the community feels disrespected, it is tough to get things back on track. So many friends, family and neighbors have reached out to me with concerns that it seems evident that many people feel disrespected and powerless. "Is this pipeline a done deal?" is the question I get asked.
Add in to the mix that our congressman has apparently elected to sit on the fence and says he "can do little for or against the pipeline." As a former state legislator and member of congress who served as the voice for our part of Texas for over two decades - I know that's simply not true. The options are numerous.
Here's my favorite option: I'd push the pause button. Ask every single state and or federal agency with oversight authority to audit the project for compliance with all state and federal regulations. Let's find out whether this project is properly under state or federal jurisdiction.
I would use the convening power of my office to put together round table discussions with the companies, the community and other experts in the field regarding the proposed benefits and risks of the pipeline. What are the benefits? What exactly are the companies doing to help our local economy or our local schools and for how long? Do the benefits outweigh the risks? What exactly are the companies doing to minimize risks to Alpine and our region?
Perhaps there is some benefit to the pipeline. Perhaps not. Either way, though, the community is entitled to digest the information over time. Some are for. Some are not. All deserve to be heard. The community and the companies need a cooling off period. Why not? What's the hurry?
The pipeline is a big deal. It's the biggest deal in Alpine for a long time. Important decisions should not be made at breakneck speed. Turn off the trucks. Stop the digging.
We all like to believe we have some say in our own futures. That didn't happen here. It's like our fate was announced in advance. Give us a chance to be part of the planning process. Listen to our concerns and then plan accordingly.
For now, pause the pipeline.
Pete Gallego was born and raised in Alpine and served as a state representative and congressman for over twenty years representing West Texas. Pete is currently a candidate for congress.