The future of a stretch of underground petroleum pipeline winding through Gilbert, Chandler and surrounding communities remains uncertain today despite a face-to-face meeting between Arizona officials and Richard Kinder, president of the Kinder Morgan Corp.
Arizona Corporation Commissioners Kris Mayes and Jeff Hatch-Miller met with Kinder for one hour Friday at the chief executive officer’s headquarters in Houston.
Mayes called for the meeting after Kinder Morgan Energy Partners filed a lawsuit in federal court in Phoenix against Chandler, asking the court to declare that the city can’t force the giant petroleum company to remove its six-inch pipeline from beneath Chandler’s streets.
Chandler, in a previous lawsuit against the company filed in Maricopa County Superior Court and later thrown out, contended the 50-year-old pipeline buried 36 inches below the roadway is deteriorating and poses a danger as well as hampers roadway construction.
"I asked him (Kinder) to replace 30 miles of the pipeline going through Chandler, Gilbert and Laveen," Mayes said.
"He said he would look into it. I’d describe it as a good meeting, a necessary meeting. He (Kinder) reacted positively, although he didn’t make any commitments."
Mayes said the session was the first time corporation commissioners met directly with the owner of one of the nation’s biggest petroleum distributors whose company has been involved in an ongoing dispute with state and local officials since a pipeline burst in Tucson on July 30, 2003.
That rupture caused a Valleywide gas shortage and skyhigh fuel prices and was followed by the current litigation between Chandler and the company. Chandler is widening Pecos Road from Dobson Road to McQueen Road as part of a project that will eventually tie into Loop 202. The underground pipeline is causing costly construction delays, city officials said. Jay Thorne, a spokesman for Kinder Morgan, said Friday’s meeting between Kinder, Mayes and Hatch-Miller would result in more discussions soon.
"We told them we would look into their requests and we would come back to Phoenix, sit down with them again in the near future and continue to discuss the issue," Thorne said.
Kinder Morgan contends in its lawsuit that it would cost $1.5 million to move the pipeline and it would disrupt the flow of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel to southern Arizona. The company argues that Chandler can’t force it to move the pipeline because it was granted a permit by Maricopa County in 1956, years before Chandler annexed Pecos Road.