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Arizona-Mexico gas pipeline proposal stirs controversy

A proposed route for a southern Arizona pipeline to take natural gas to Mexico is being criticized as damaging to the desert environment and opening a new route for smugglers and immigrants illegally entering the country.

The planned 60-mile-long pipeline through the Altar Valley would extend from an existing Kinder Morgan Inc. line near Tucson southward to the U.S.-Mexico border near the town of Sasabe.

The Pima County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to consider a resolution Tuesday opposing the pipeline and directing the county administrator to demand millions of dollars for various impacts, The Arizona Republic reported.

County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry is demanding more than $16 million to remedy impacts that include environmental and road damage, and autopsies of additional deaths of people crossing the border illegally.

Houston-based Kinder Morgan said it’ll pay for required remediation work, and the energy company has offered to pay for remediation work for damages to washes that the pipeline will cross.

“Our long-term goal is to reach an amicable solution,” company spokesman Richard Wheatley said.

Wheatley said the Altar Valley route would be less disruptive than using an existing right of way along Interstate 19, which runs between Tucson and Nogales.

Existing commercial and industrial activity along the Nogales corridor would make going through that area more difficult, he said.

Conservationists, ranchers and the Tohono O’odham Nation have criticized routing the pipeline through the Altar Valley to Sasabe.

Rancher Melissa Owen said the pipeline “is going to go right through Sasabe, right through my ranch, destroy all the conservation work we’ve done and provide a superhighway for drug and people smugglers.”

A Border Patrol official in 2012, when the pipeline was first proposed, said the pipeline would lead to a considerable increase in alien and narcotics trafficking.

Kinder Morgan has said it would use boulders, fences and other barriers along the route to hinder smugglers and immigrants.

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