Naked City

Pipeline problems

The city of Austin drew another line in the sand Monday in its attempt to halt, or at least slow, the work of Longhorn Pipeline, which is replacing four miles of pipe in Southwest Austin. In a nutshell, the city says Longhorn must have a permit and an approved site plan to continue the replacement work, while Longhorn argues that it takes its marching orders from the federal, not local government.

Longhorn spokesman Don Martin says the company started the permit process with the city in early 2000 as a way of demonstrating its cooperation. He said Longhorn consistently told city officials the company would begin replacement work on Dec. 1 -- with or without a city permit. Of course, no one expects the city to issue a permit for a project it opposes -- the transfer of gasoline and other fuels through a 51-year-old pipeline across South Austin. "We have been incredibly cooperative," Martin said. "We're not thumbing our nose at them."

The city filed a slew of Class C misdemeanor charges against Longhorn on Monday, and the two parties are scheduled to appear in Municipal Court on March 6. However, Longhorn filed papers in federal court on Monday to have this issued moved from the local court to the federal level. Meanwhile, Southwest Austin residents did not exactly have a quiet holiday season as Longhorn work progressed in their neighborhood. "We've been watching them move large machinery around back there," said Jodi Eckberg. "Everyone would prefer it wouldn't happen, but a lot of people have already resigned themselves to the fact that it will happen."

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