Exposure blamed for deaths of almost 40 prize deer; effect on area residents unknown
HOUSTON – Two Southeast Texas landowners have filed a proposed class-action lawsuit claiming that a division of Houston-based pipeline giant Kinder Morgan (NYSE: KMI) negligently released toxic chemicals across thousands of acres of land in the region, killing animals and likely causing additional environmental and property damage.
Plaintiff Greg Buford owns property near the release site that houses herds of trophy deer. To date almost 40 whitetail bucks, yearlings and breeding does, some of them pregnant, have died from diagnosed respiratory failure believed to be caused by the chemical release. Many of the deer were worth tens of thousands of dollars apiece.
“While this has been an awful tragedy for the animal population, what’s truly concerning are the potential health risks to people living in the area,” said Micah Dortch of the Dallas office of the Potts Law Firm and co-counsel for the proposed class. “We don’t know what those risks might be, and Kinder Morgan isn’t saying. But if these chemicals can virtually exterminate deer in such a horrible fashion, what effect might they have on humans and other parts of the surrounding environment?”
The company won’t reveal to surrounding property owners what specific chemicals and volumes were released from its Compressor Station 25 on Nov. 14 and Dec.10, 2018, near the town of Cleveland. In a letter to property owners the company attributed the first release to a “line sensor failure…to prevent a line overpressure situation.” The letter also references the possible venting of liquids such as lube oil and natural gas condensate as part of “some misting of oil” which the company proposed cleaning with water and household detergents.
According to the lawsuit, the first incident alone released an estimated 565,000 cubic feet of natural gas and other hydrocarbons into the atmosphere from the station, which is connected to the Tennessee Gas Pipeline, an 11,750-mile system that carries natural gas across Texas and the southeastern U.S. to New England. Compressor station facilities are used by pipeline owners to control the pressurization and flow of natural gas through a series of pumps.
It is believed that thousands of area residents and their property may have been exposed, prompting the filing as a proposed class action in state district court in Harris County. The class is represented by Mr. Dortch as well as Patrick Zummo of The Law Offices of Patrick Zummo in Houston.
The case is Mullenix et al v. Tennessee Gas Pipeline LLC, No. 201889224.