Thursday, July 30, 2015



We recently scored quite a success when FERC decided to consider the entire length of the pipeline as one project.  Your efforts were critical in that success—a hearty thanks!!!

But the effort to resist the Trans Pecos pipeline has reached a critical stage.  FERC is now conducting an environmental assessment (EA) on the pipeline project, to determine if there are significant environmental or cultural resources that could be negatively impacted along the length of the proposed route.  If there is enough evidence that there will be negative impact, the required federal review will elevate to an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

This is our holy grail—it could delay the pipeline for years due to the in-depth nature of the studies required.

But in order to get FERC to consider an EIS, there needs to be a burden of evidence that the bigger study is necessary.  So as citizens we need to comment during the EA period, alerting FERC to potential issues.  The deadline for comments is 24 August at 4pm central time.  This is essentially our last chance as citizens to have any kind of effective voice in delaying and even stopping the pipeline project.

Our comments need to highlight all possible ways in which environmental, cultural, and socio-economic targets could be affected by the pipeline.  However, to be most effective (according to those familiar with FERC and the EA process) each comment essentially needs to be unique, addressing separate specifics about different topics, species, or facets of the many negatives of the pipeline.

To this end we are currently gathering information from subject experts that will help us strategize how to get as many unique, hard-hitting comments submitted as possible.

In addition to “expert” information, we need a small army of people willing to submit comments.  There are many ways this can happen such as:

○       comment independently on a subject you are interested in

○       be a proxy for an expert that cannot comment themselves due to a conflict of interest

○       construct your comment using topics and/or information from our panel of experts

Strategy is important here: in order to maximize the power of our comments we want-- as much as possible-- to match commenters with expert-vetted information.  This way we can have the maximum impact and make sure that comments are submitted on the topics the experts tell us need to be covered.

Joselyn Fenstermacher, a local botanist, has volunteered to be the overall point person for this EA comment phase.  She will gather all of the interest, input, ideas, etc. from all of you, and match that with the information to come from our panel of experts.


What you can do right now:

○       Think about what you want to comment about: what is the thing that will be impacted and why it is important.  This is not about emotion, this is about hard facts—the ONLY thing the FERC feds care about in this case.  Ideally you need documents and data to support your statements.

○       Identify friends you can recruit to make a comment.  There were 300 comments last time… if each of those 300 folks got just one new person to comment, that would be a huge statement!

○       Keep in mind that one person can submit more than one comment, as long as the subject matter is distinctly different.

○       Let Joselyn know if there is a particular negative impact you think might be overlooked, she will forward that to the appropriate subject-expert group.

○       Consider having a conversation with friends who are landowners but perhaps not taking much action as yet—this is their best and last chance aside from legal battles to protect their land and keep the pipeline off their property.  A landowner does not need to put their name on a comment, or be linked in anyway to DBB or BBCA.  We can assist with the process, but if they can help identify significant resources on their land that stand to be impacted by the pipeline, their input could be a critical addition to the weight of evidence in favor of a full blown Environmental Impact Statement study.  Remind them and others—the pipeline is not a done deal, they have the power in their hands (our hands!) right now to make our voices heard!

Stay tuned, for upcoming workshops on how to file comments as well as how to get ‘expert’ information to use for your comment.  If you would prefer to comment independently of the larger organizational structure, that would be fantastic too.  If you could just let Joselyn know the basic focus/content of your comment we will try to ensure other comments do not duplicate your efforts, making all submitted comments as effective as possible.

Thanks for all your hard work, and stay tuned for next steps… time is short!

Reply to Joselyn at


Alpine Public Library, Monday, August 3rd, at 6:00pm

Marfa Public Library, Wed. August 5th at 6:00pm

Alpine Public Library, Saturday, August 8th at 1:00pm

Marfa Public Library, Monday August 10th at 6pm

Library computers will be available for use, and WiFi access will be available for those who can bring a computer (please bring your laptop if you have one).

In these workshops, we will:

 - examine an example Quick Comment in depth, talk about how to author one, and where to find the resources
 - take a brief look at an E-Filing long-form comment
 - demonstrate how to submit a Quick Comment, and help file ready-made comments
 - demonstrate how to register with FERC to submit an E-File long-form comment
 - demonstrate filing of a long-form E-Filing comment
 - answer questions about the process
 - sign-up for comment topics

In preparation for the upcoming series of FERC Environmental Assessment (EA) Scoping Comment Workshops, we are making available a growing collection of resources, including examples, commenting guides, information sources, and maps:

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Joint Statement on Cooperative Action for Conservation in the Big Bend/Río Bravo Region by The Department of the Interior of the United States of America and The Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources of the United Mexican States

Let's invite Presidents Obama and Nieto to uphold this 2010 Bi-National Agreement:

In May of 2010, a joint statement was issued from U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon that “reaffirmed the strategic partnership between the United States and Mexico” stressing, among other things, climate change, clean energy, and environmental conservation. 
The Presidents noted the long history of bilateral cooperation in the conservation of natural and cultural resources and in particular, recognized that Big Bend National Park and Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River in the United States and the Protected Areas of Maderas del Carmen, Cañon de Santa Elena, Ocampo, and Río Bravo del Norte in Mexico together comprise one of the largest and most significant ecological complexes in North America.

In doing so, they recognized that increased cooperation in these protected areas would restrict development and enhance security in the region and within this fragile desert ecosystem.

To preserve this region of extraordinary biological diversity, they expressed their support for the United States Department of Interior and the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources of the United Mexican States to work through appropriate national processes to recognize and designate Big Bend – Rio Bravo as a natural area of binational interest.  The Presidents underscored their commitment to manage the region in a way that enhances security and protects these areas for wildlife preservation, ecosystem restoration, climate change adaptation, wildland fire management, and invasive species control.



Big Bend Biology 101 for the FERC Commenter

During the first open comment period, over 300 local residents filed comments on ETP's request for permitting for the border crossing segment of the proposed Trans Pecos Pipeline.

The next round of comments will be due on August 24. For this round, in order to be most influential, comments must be more highly-detailed, focusing specifically on environmental and cultural impacts of the project.

The results of this next commenting period could have the power to force an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the entire 143-mile route. An EIS is a far more thorough (as well as costly and time-consuming) process than the EA. An EIS has the potential to slow the proposed project down substantially.

While everyone will be strongly encouraged to compose comments referencing already-available data (to be provided), help from those with special knowledge in local biology and archeology are also being sought! Several workshops will be set up in the coming days to coordinate research efforts, possible field studies (though access to specific sites – while helpful – may not be entirely necessary), and comment-writing strategy.

Since as many of us as possible will need to quickly become "amateur experts", a good place begin is the following document:

CONSERVATION ASSESSMENT for the BIG BEND/RIO BRAVO REGION: A Bi-national Approach to Conservation

There are 29 Priority Conservation Areas listed in the Conservation Assessment.
The proposed Trans-Pecos Pipeline passes through or very near seven of them:

Marfa Grasslands
Alpine Grasslands
Marathon Grasslands
Glass Mountains
Davis Mountains
Chinati Mountains
Alamito Creek

Also listed in this document are “conservation targets” for each of the PCAs. These include invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, fish, birds, mammals, vegetation, and aquatic environments.

Please stay tuned for more info! 

If you have special expertise in any of these areas or would like to get involved, please email If you are not already subscribed to the the defendbigbend riseup email list and would like to be, please let us know.

Monday, July 27, 2015


Red flags were waved by the audience during especially nonsensical &/or disingenuous moments an Energy TransfPartners "Open House" forum on the proposed Trans Pecos Pipeline in Alpine, TX on July 8, 2015.

" re-seed with and to make sure that we can germinate...and we can make sure that we vegetate the land back to equal/better than it was before." – Rick Smith, Trans Pecos Pipeline Project Manager


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Big Bend Lacks Infrastructure for Fracking: the 2010 Article That Served as a Catalyst for Local Organization and Resistance in Early Summer 2014

In early 2014, when Mexico first denationalized its fossil fuel industry, several Alpine residents banded together to start researching the impacts this might have on our region. At first, we were concerned mainly about fracking – but it quickly became clear that the reason the Big Bend had been spared from the industry thus far was due to lack of infrastructure.

We were horrified to discover immediately thereafter that this infrastructure was indeed being planned in the form of the proposed Trans Pecos Pipeline. Our focus then switched from educating ourselves about the impacts of fracking to the fight against the pipeline.

It was this chilling article, first published back in 2010 but first seen by several of us late last summer (and posted by us June 17, 2014 on the OCCUPY MARFA Facebook page), that made it clear that the reason fracking has not entered the Big Bend region is due in very large part to lack of infrastructure:

"Residents may have a while to enjoy the pristine Texas wilderness before drilling rigs arrive in great numbers. A number of things will make this one of the last shale gas plays to be developed, if in fact it is determined to be economically viable.

One drawback to drilling for oil and gas in the Big Bend region of West Texas is the lack of water. New wells require water to drill and thousands of gallons of water for hydraulic fracturing of the shale once the well is completed. Waters is as scarce as hen’s teeth in this part of the nation.

Another factor is that this area of the state is not known for oil and gas production and lacks any kind of infrastructure for major drilling and production. The network of gas pipelines is not well developed and it would cost millions to extend lines to the area for what could be a marginal shale gas play."

Read the article in full at



The link above is dead – this article has been removed from the Internet. In order to find it, use the Internet Archive. Meanwhile, we'll post the entire text below:

"The Woodford shale is a deposit of Devonian age rock that is roughly 416 to 359 million years old. It is found under much of Oklahoma and as far west as the Marfa Basin in West Texas.

The Marfa area of West Texas is known for mystery lights that appear floating above the desert at night, for large ranches, art galleries and miles of untouched desert. The skies in this part of the Big Bend region are some of the darkest in the world, making it a good location for the McDonald observatory in nearby Fort Davis.

The movie “Giant” starring James Dean, was filmed just outside of Marfa and for years the facade of the home in the movie was visible from the highway.  The irony is that in the movie, oil was discovered, making everyone rich, yet the county where “Giant” was filmed features little oil and gas activity. All of that might be about to change.

Residents who moved to the isolated region of West Texas might not have bargained for oil and gas drilling but it could be coming, like it or not. Under much of the Big Bend lies the Woodford shale, a potential source of natural gas.

The Woodford shale play in the Marfa Basin is yet one of many hot shale gas exploration plays around the United States. With horizontal drilling methods it is now possible to extract natural gas from shales like the Woodford, Barnett shale, Marcellus shale and others.  There is plenty of natural gas now thanks to these discoveries. The world might be running short of oil but it is brimming with reserves of shale gas that are mostly yet untouched. In the Marfa basin, which holds Woodford shale of the same age as the larger deposit in Oklahoma, companies like Continental Resources have leased acreage for exploration.

As seen in this map [above] of the Woodford Shale and Barnett shale in West Texas covers a broad area.

Continental Resources has a 50% working interest in partnership with TXCO Resources, in leases of totaling 135,000 acres  in Brewster and Presidio counties. In 2006 they re-entered an existing well and tested the shale for productivity. The quantities of gas obtained were non-commercial but this does not indicate what may be present elsewhere in the Marfa Basin. Here the Woodford shale and Barnett shale equivalents are over six hundred feet thick and thermally mature.

The interest in the Woodford shale in the Marfa Basin has been reduced somewhat by the depressed price of natural gas. With so many shale gas wells producing the price of natural gas has been on a downward trend for the past few years. Companies are focusing capital on projects that also yield oil and condensate, such as the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas.

Things have been fairly quiet in the Marfa basin since the initial test of the Woodford shale in 2006.

Still the Woodford shale in Presidio and Brewster counties will be the subject of future  exploration. There are many signs that it can be an economically viable source of natural gas. It has depth, thermal maturity and high organic content. These three are what geologists look for when exploring for shale gas.

Residents may have a while to enjoy the pristine Texas wilderness before drilling rigs arrive in great numbers. A number of things will make this one of the last shale gas plays to be developed, if in fact it is determined to be economically viable.

One drawback to drilling for oil and gas in the Big Bend region of West Texas is the lack of water. New wells require water to drill and thousands of gallons of water for hydraulic fracturing of the shale once the well is completed. Waters is as scarce as hen’s teeth in this part of the nation.

Another factor is that this area of the state is not known for oil and gas production and lacks any kind of infrastructure for major drilling and production. The network of gas pipelines is not well developed and it wold cost millions to extend lines to the area for what could be a marginal shale gas play"

Let's keep big oil and gas out of BIG BEND.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015




with Viewing Hours Throughout the Weekend!

In the Big Bend region, value placed on good stewardship of the land is a long-time tradition, from the native people who here first, to generations of ranchers who consider themselves "the original environmentalists", to those who have found themselves more recently drawn here from other places around the country, only to fall in love with the region's rugged beauty, striking landscapes, clear skies, clean air, and unique flora and fauna. Those who call the Big Bend home have fought for decades to successfully prevent over-development and industrialization from destroying the rare qualities that makes the Big Bend region so precious to all who know it.

Recently, the proposed Trans-Pecos Pipeline, a 42", 143-mile natural gas pipeline, was slated to be built though the area, passing in close proximity to Alpine to export gas to Mexico and beyond; activists have been involved in community organizing, working through local, regional and national media and politics in an attempt to stop the pipeline from threatening our way of life.

The art you see here has been created to raise awareness and has been seen in the media and at weekly peaceful protests.

If you appreciate the Big Bend without big oil and gas, please join our efforts to oppose the Trans-Pecos Pipeline.

Defend Big Bend!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

HOW-TO: Spray-Paint Stencils

Spray-paint stencils are a fun, quick, easy and inexpensive way to create multiples of a design on posters and t-shirts. The key to a good spray-paint stencil is in the prep work – the more care that is taken in setting up the printing process, the more crisp and clean the resulting image will be.  

1. Design image in clean blocky letters – sans serif fonts work best – keeping in mind that space between letters is needed. For a standard t-shirt, an image approximately 6" wide is a good size.

2. Cut out the letters with an X-acto knife.

3. Insert a piece of cardboard between the front and back of the t-shirt you want to use, stretching out any wrinkles if possible.

4. Lay the stencil down on the t-shirt in the spot where you want the image to be. Secure the stencil to the shirt with masking tape.

5. Cover the shirt with newspaper – any place that is not covered WILL get paint on it! Carefully tape the newspaper to the stencil, being careful not to cover any part of the design.

6. If any parts of the stencil (the leggy parts of the letters E or G, for example) are lifting up away from the t-shirt, use rocks, pebbles, nails, chopsticks, or other handy implements to weight them down.

7. Spray in quick, light strokes. Better to do several light coats with a few minutes' drying-time in between than to saturate the fabric with a lot of paint.

If you have any questions, please post them in the comments!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Note: History Repeats

What if the story
of how the great Sioux nation fell
were different than what most cowpokes tell?
What if it weren’t the settlers, or the miners,
gamblers or wagon drivers,
Mule skinners, free grazers, squatters or Oregon Trail,
But instead,
the double standards of a single double rail?

Was the death nell to the home on the range,
the frontier days, along with everything
that dared stand in way of the momentum of the times
paved by connecting the coasts round 69?

The raging buzz of corporate scheming
Lying to locals and pushing outrageous treaties
Promises made, they had not one intention of keeping
Along with friends and enemies alike
smuggling in whiskey to poison the well,
raising hell, banking on the conflict continuing
and cashing in on the nations wealth, for themselves
By which ever means necessary?

An age old game of hostage and bondage,
keeping those that oppose stranded, while building a case
to forcefully remove, or even eradicate
in the name of industry and progress.

It's no surprise the Sioux distrusted the 'white suits and ties'
and no wonder many died fighting those lines.
Because, with it soon came more soldiers and supplies
than a war party could ever hope to divide.
Polluting night skies and tapping old springs.
Within only a short amount of time,
there was simply no place left for them to ride...
Their way of life vanished to the wind.

Sound familiar?

Well, partners of the Big Bend in the 21st century
Take a look now, and you'll be astounded to see
that history repeats in the derndest of ways.
Cuz now we're all the indians in the path of the train... 

– Anonymous

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Kelcy Warren's Music Road Records

Right now two billionaires – Kelcy Warren of the US and Carlos Slim of Mexico – are proposing to build a 42" high pressure transmission line intended to deliver Texan fracked gas to new power plants in Mexico straight through the heart of the Big Bend, one of the largest intact bioregions in the United States. The Trans Pecos Pipeline project is intended to increase demand for natural gas on both sides of the border, flying in the face of all data which definitively states that if there is any hope to curtail runaway climate change, the switch to renewables must be made NOW.

“You always want to look like you need your next meal if you’re a salesman. You never want to look affluent.”

– Billionaire Kelcy Warren in 2012 Dallas Morning News

Kelcy Warren (CEO of Energy Transfer Partners and owner of Lajitas Resort on the Rio Grande) is an appreciator of folk/roots-style music. Warren owns recording studios and a record label, Music Road Records. In 2014 Music Road produced a tribute album to Jackson Browne, one of Kelcy Warren's favorite artists. Last August, Jackson Browne played in a Pete Seeger tribute/benefit concert for Frack Free Albany.

The (cognitive) dissonance here is astonishing.

A relevant letter to the editor of the Austin Chronicle from renowned cartoonist/musician Gary Oliver was published in this week's issue:
I was an owner of the One Knite, where Stubbs is now, back in its notorious days in the early 70s.  For over thirty years, though, I've lived in Marfa, one of the communities in the Big Bend now up in arms over billionaire Kelcy Warren's plan to force a gigantic gas pipeline through our area to connect with another pipeline, owned by even bigger billionaire Carlos Slim, under the Rio Grande at Presidio/Ojinaga. They're calling, with straight faces, the Texas part an "intrastate" project because each company builds only to the river.  A similarly sized 42" pipeline of Warren's just blew up a week ago in South Texas, in a fireball visible twenty miles away.  Talk about your Marfa Lights.  After all, who's ever visited the Big Bend and left without wishing this part of the country had its share of the petroleum industry? In Austin, Warren is perhaps better known as the cacique of MUSIC ROAD RECORDS. If you're a musician working for this outfit or a patron supporting it, you're not doing the Big Bend any favors.
In case you needed further convincing, Rick Perry joined the board of Energy Transfer Partners, Warren's pipeline company, in February.  If you believe that the trouble with the Big Bend is that it doesn't look enough like the Permian Basin, then you'll love these sweethearts and their billion dollar toxic scheme.

Gary Oliver
Marfa, TX

If you enjoy the work of any of the artists on Kelcy Warren's Music Road label, please them know Mr. Warren's name is rapidly becoming synonymous with destroying the last frontier and stealing land from hard-working ranchers for his own personal gain. Warren's values run in direct opposition to the ethos of "folk music". Let these fine musicians such as Jimmy Lafave, Sam Baker, and Hal Ketchum know how much their fans would appreciate and support them if they publicly renounced their association with the label.

Perhaps send them this?