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Gas pipeline could wipe out Marfa’s Mystery Lights, group says

Normally, part of the magic of Marfa’s mystery lights is that out on the flats, where the lights appear, there are no roads and no houses. Whatever the cause of the lights-and in 130 years, no one has ever been able to come up with a foolproof explanation-the lack of human activity has been a key part of the mystery of these red and white spots dancing on the horizon.

Right now, though, there is human movement out on the flats. Five miles to the southwest of the Marfa Lights Viewing Station, the low building erected at one of the most popular light-viewing spots, workers on the Trans Pecos pipeline are preparing to lay a 42-inch natural gas pipeline into the ground.

“You can see the pipe from the viewing station with the naked eye,” says Alyce Santoro, a member of the grassroots group Defend Big Bend.

The pipeline will run straight through this region, until it reaches the border with Mexico. It’s intended to open new markets to Texas natural gas, but Santoro and other activists fear that it will take away the allure of this part of the state, where the population is sparse and open vistas of mountains and desert dominate the landscape.

Already, the pipeline construction is a threat to the Marfa Lights: if no one knows what causes them, how can they be protected?

“It’s the first tangible thing in this area that people will watch disappear,” says Santoro.

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