Natural gas company seeks to expand operations in Cochise County

Natural gas company seeks to expand operations in Cochise County

COCHISE COUNTY, AZ (Tucson News Now) - One of the largest energy infrastructure companies in North America is looking to expand its operations in Cochise County.

Kinder Morgan is proposing to build a gas compressor station to modify and expand its existing El Paso Natural Gas Company pipeline system located in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.

The proposed Dragoon Compressor Station is expected to cost $40 million to build and will create an estimated 50 local jobs during its construction phase. When complete, Kinder Morgan believes the station will generate around $1.1 million in annual tax revenue to state and local tax bodies.

The Illinois-based company has not yet chosen its preferred site, but one possibility could be a 40-acre parcel located within the Willcox Bench about half a mile south of Arzberger Road. The development would occupy 10 acres or less.

On Thursday, representatives from Kinder Morgan, which operates the existing Willcox Compressor Station on Arzberger Road, met with regional wine producers to discuss the proposal, which could be located near several vineyards. Also in attendance was County Supervisor Peggy Judd and County Administrator Ed Gilligan.

Allen Fore, Vice President, Public Affairs, stressed the project is still in the preliminary stages and the company is working to mitigate any negative impact on the local community.

"We will let you know where our preferred site is before we even submit any permits," he told the group. "There is nothing formal at this point and we can have a compatible experience here where we do not adversely impact your industry."

He added the company has many options to allow it to ensure the station would be in keeping with the surrounding area. This could include the color of the building, as well as adding berms and vegetation to screen the development.

"We look at situations like this not as challenges, but as opportunities," he said. "This company listens and responds."

Fore said Kinder Morgan was looking at "multiple" locations within Cochise County, but all are located within an eight-mile area.

While the vineyard owners expressed some concerns about how the new station will impact their industry, they said they appreciated the opportunity to learn more about the project and provide feedback.

Gilligan told the vintners he was fully supportive of the wine industry and its many benefits to the region, but added the gas station would help to mitigate local water use – the vineyard owners have become increasingly concerned about high water use by other forms of agriculture. Vineyards use about a fifth of water consumed by traditional crops.

"This development would lock up a parcel of land with very low water use," Gilligan said. "Unfortunately, we cannot ensure that the surrounding land will be used for vineyards only. But what we can do with this project is manage the look and any negative impact. The importance of the wine industry has caught the attention of the Board of Supervisors and we want to help move this industry forward."

Kinder Morgan expects to announce its preferred location by mid February. The project will then go through a year-long review process which will include input at the federal, state and local regulatory levels, including Cochise County. There will also be an opportunity for the local community to provide comments.

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