In December 2022, a community protest formed in the Southwest Houston neighborhood of Southwest Crossing; in response to Centerpoint Energy’s new propane facility that was recently constructed on the neighborhood’s fringe. Centerpoint, the Houston-based energy giant, reportedly began building propane-air peak-shaving facilities throughout Houston since 2019. Centerpoint is a beneficiary of an approximately $16 billion capital project that is intended to fortify domestic natural gas infrastructure over the next decade.
To be sure, there are incidental benefits to the facility’s proximity to the neighborhood. However, that is not how the residents of Southwest Crossing see it. To them, the prospective economic benefits do not outweigh immediate concerns of the facility’s safety. For example, the new facility is estimated to store more than three hundred thousand (300,000) gallons of highly flammable gas mere yards away from neighborhood homes. In October 2022, the Southwest Crossing residents protested the construction, but by December, the facility had come online and began operation.
During the December protest, the community’s previous concerns were validated. Two days before Christmas, residents near Chimney Rock Road and West Orem Drive awoke to the smell of gas throughout the neighborhood, along with a strange sound emitting from the Centerpoint facility. Centerpoint, as could be expected, asserted this was completely normal in a statement made in response to the incident:
“To be clear, this was not a natural gas leak. The natural gas released on Dec. 23 at the natural gas station is part of the facility’s normal operating procedures. These valves are designed to safely release pressure when needed and this standard procedure does not pose any danger to public safety. These are normal operating procedures for our city gates across the Houston area and the relief valve safely released natural gas as it was designed to do. The natural gas station in this area is physically connected to the same local natural gas distribution system the propane-air peak shaving facility is connected to, but they operate independently of each other.”
Conveniently, Centerpoint did not provide what led to the need for the facility to vent natural gas into the atmosphere, proximal to a populated neighborhood. Utility companies such as Centerpoint are granted tremendous economic privilege to operate virtually free from competition in a massive economic market that is the ever-growing Houston metro area. By law, these companies are charged with a duty to ensure they do not needlessly endanger surrounding property owners and the public at large. For the sake of Southwest Crossing, Centerpoint must remain vigilant in the execution of its important duty to its local community.
The law firm of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz, & Stogner is the longest-standing personal injury firm in Texas, and our attorneys have the knowledge, experience, and resources necessary to obtain just compensation for our clients. Call us today at 713-222-7211 or 1-800-870-9584 for your free consultation.