Lawsuit: East Texas gas pipeline caused deaths of 40 deer
HOUSTON (AP) — Two landowners near Houston are accusing a major interstate gas pipeline of being responsible for the deaths of 40 trophy deer at a breeding facility.
Liberty County landowners Monty Mullenix and Greg Buford recently filed a lawsuit alleging that Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. released methane and other toxic gases on their properties during emergency shutdowns along the natural gas pipeline route near Cleveland, the Houston Chronicle reported .
Buford owns the Grande Whitetails breeding facility near the Sam Houston National Forest. He claimed his white-tailed deer started dying shortly after the emergency natural gas releases on his property.
The deer are each worth tens of thousands of dollars, he said.
In Texas, breeding deer, antelope and exotic game has become a $1 billion industry, with most animals sent to hunting ranches.
Kinder Morgan, the Houston parent company of Tennessee Gas Pipeline, denied that the emergency releases killed the deer, instead blaming the deaths on a virus.
“Lab results on the deer tested to date confirmed that those deer died from epizootic hemorrhagic disease, or EHD, a virus transmitted by small insects,” Kinder Morgan said in a statement. “The company has worked, and continues to work, with the nearby landowners to remediate any impacts to their property.”
Mullenix and Buford are seeking class-action status for the lawsuit to represent residents in the area.
“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, a lawyer representing the landowners. “We don’t know what those risks might be, and Kinder Morgan isn’t saying.”
An oily mist had settled on homes, cars and vegetation following the Nov. 14 and Dec. 10 natural gas releases, according to court documents. Cleanup crews used detergents to remove the mist.
Kinder Morgan said the residue removed by cleanup crews was tested and determined to have no short- or long-term impacts on people or livestock.
Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com