The pipeline fight: Protesters rally against protesters

Work continues at a pad site north of Alpine, Texas, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015. The pad will be used for the construction of Trans-Pecos Pipeline Project. The project plans on transporting natural gas from a collection facility west of Fort Stockton into Mexico, 12 miles upriver from Presidio.
Work in 2015 on the Trans-Pecos Pipeline Project, which will pump natural gas from west of Fort Stockton into Mexico, 12 miles upriver from Presidio.

First came the Trans-Pecos pipeline. Then the pipeline protesters arrived.

Now the protest protesters are mobilizing.

North Texans for Natural Gas launched an online petition this week in support of Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners’ Trans-Pecos Pipeline “and continued energy development in West Texas.”

“Texans don’t want professional protesters coming in from out of state to try to shut down our energy economy,” said Steve Everley, spokesman for the natural gas advocacy group.

Last month, activists began opening three camps in the high desert near Big Bend National Park, hoping to attract hundreds of protesters to West Texas to block Trans-Pecos and the development of recently discovered oil and gas fields.

RELATED: Pipeline protesters setting up camps in West Texas

The organizers aim to follow the example set at the quashed Keystone XL pipeline, proposed to run from Canada through Nebraska, and at Standing Rock, North Dakota, where thousands demonstrated for months and successfully halted — at least temporarily — the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which would carry oil from the Bakken Shale to Midwestern pipeline networks and eventually down to Texas.

But the gas group, funded by four big oil companies — Oklahoma City’s Devon Energy, Houston’s EnerVest and EOG Resources, and Forth Worth-based XTO Energy, a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil — says most Texans embrace the jobs and opportunity provided by such development. The Trans-Pecos will generate at least $7 million each year in tax revenues to the counties through which the pipeline travels. Oil and gas development in West Texas supports more than 444,000 jobs, the group said, “and is the lifeblood of the local economy.”

“Anti-pipeline groups think they have momentum after Keystone XL and Dakota Access,” Everley said. “But this is Texas. This is where we fight back.”