- Committee approves Kelcy Warren for Texas parks and wildlife commission
- Warren is CEO of company that built controversial North Dakota project
The CEO behind the Dakota Access pipeline might not seem an obvious choice to be designated a custodian of the environment. Texas Republicans, though, appear to disagree.
The appointment of Kelcy Warren to the Texas parks and wildlife commission was approved by a state senate nominations committee on Thursday after a 4-3 vote along party lines, meaning it progresses to a vote by the full senate later this year.
Warren is a Dallas-based magnate who is head of Energy Transfer Partners, the company whose pipeline under the Missouri river in remote North Dakota attracted year-long mass protests and legal challenges, with Native American tribes contending that it could harm sacred ground and drinking water.
Still, the 61-year-old is close to being reconfirmed as one of 10 members of the wildlife commission, which guides a state agency with a stated mission “to manage and conserve the natural and cultural resources of Texas and to provide hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation opportunities for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations”.
Citing conflict-of-interest fears, activists are hoping that senate Democrats will muster enough votes to block Warren’s appointment.
“It’s no secret that the Texas legislature is controlled by the oil and gas industry in many respects and this is a case in point if it goes through,” said Matt Johnson, communications manager for the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, an environmental advocacy group.
Almost 50,000 barrels-worth of drilling fluids were spilled into wetlands in Ohio during the installation of an Energy Transfer natural gas pipeline, Bloomberg reported this week.
“The more people learn about the danger and risks associated with pipelines, the clearer it is in people’s minds that pipeline billionaires like Kelcy Warren shouldn’t be put in charge of safeguarding what few treasured spaces Texas has left,” Johnson said.
Warren has been on the commission since November 2015, when he was appointed by Texas’s Republican governor, Greg Abbott. Warren has donated at least $700,000 to Abbott’s political campaign since 2013, the Austin American-Statesman reported. Warren also donated more than $100,000 to Donald Trump’s campaign, while Trump had between $500,000 to $1m invested in Energy Transfer Partners.
Trump sold his stake in the company last year before entering the White House and signing an executive order restarting construction of the Dakota Access pipeline, which had been stymied by the Obama administration.
An Energy Transfer spokeswoman said in a statement: “Mr Warren is honored to have been appointed by the Governor to serve on the Texas Parks & Wildlife Commission. As a native Texan, he looks forward to the opportunity to continue to serve on the Commission and to carry out its mission to manage our state’s natural and cultural resources.”
Energy Transfer recently completed another controversial project that inspired protests: the 148-mile Trans-Pecos pipeline to carry fracked natural gas to Mexico through the Big Bend area of west Texas, which was one of the last remaining Texas regions largely untouched by major energy industry activity.
Lori Glover of the Big Bend Defense Coalition, which fought the Trans-Pecos, said that the committee’s vote is “more proof that they’re not listening to what the people want”.
Glover was one of several Texans who testified against Warren’s appointment at a committee hearing last week in Austin. She said that thousands of anti-Warren petition signatures had been gathered. “It’s just a huge slap in the face to the average American and the average Texan because it’s saying what you want as a people doesn’t matter,” she said.