Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP's recent decision to shelve plans for a crude oil pipeline from Texas to California has no effect on the company's plans for a natural gas pipeline from Tucson to the Mexican border through the rural Altar Valley, a company spokesman says.

Kinder Morgan has applied to build a 59-mile pipeline carrying natural gas from the Tucson area to Sasabe. The project would connect with a $460 million pipeline that the Japanese company Mitsui Co. has announced it plans to build south into Mexico.

The separate Freedom pipeline project that was dropped last week would have laid a $2 billion crude oil pipeline starting in Midland, Texas, and ending in two terminals in Southern California, but key oil refinery companies said they weren't interested.

There was "no connection" between the two projects, company spokesman Richard Wheatley said.

Kinder Morgan's $204 million natural gas Sierrita Pipeline Project calls for 36-inch diameter pipe to deliver gas to power plants in Mexico from existing pipelines in Tucson. Construction is scheduled to start next year.

The pipeline has been opposed or criticized by a wide array of interests, including Pima County government, environmental groups, Altar Valley ranchers, the U.S. Border Patrol and the Tohono O'Odham Nation, who say the route would draw smugglers and immigrants and cause serious erosion.

The line would create 500 construction jobs and generate $3 million a year in property taxes in its first year, benefiting economic development on both sides of the border, Wheatley has said.

Kinder Morgan needs approval for the project from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Contact reporter Tony Davis at or 806-7746.