This article from the Houston Chronicle from nearly a year ago tells sort of the flip side of what opponents of a proposed natural gas pipeline in the Altar Valley say will happen here if the pipeline is built.

While the valley residents here are worried about the pipeline right of way  becoming a road for drug smugglers and illegal immigrants, this story tells of how roads built for natural gas exploration and drilling are providing a "pipeline" for drug traffickers to enter South Texas from Mexico.

Here in Arizona, Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, which has proposed building a 59-mile-long pipeline from Tucson to Sasabe, says it's committed to keeping drug-runners and illegal immigrants off the pipeline right of way, a position that's drawn skepticism among Altar Valley ranchers, environmentalists and Pima County officials.

Said last year's Chronicle story: 

"Hefty roads running through once-remote ranchlands now enable loaded-down tractor-trailers and pickups to avoid Border Patrol highway checkpoints that have long been the last line of defense for stopping all traffic headed farther into the United States.

"Traffickers are seeking to use the southwest-most stretches of the massive Eagle Ford shale formation, which stretches from Mexico all the way to East Texas, to their advantage by trying to corrupt truck drivers, contractors and gate personnel. Authorities also speculate that they are trying to make “cloned” copies of legitimate trucks and use contractor-like vehicles to avoid standing out among fleets of oil-field service vehicles working for energy companies. In some cases, vehicles have been stolen and believed to have been used by smugglers.

“'They are using those roads to transport drugs, guns, ammo, you name it,' said Albert DeLeon, chief deputy of the Dimmit County sheriff’s office."

The story also says:

"Deb Hastings, executive vice president of the Texas Oil & Gas Association, serves on a council that advises Texas’ governor on ways to coordinate the needs of the private sector with those of security.

"'Safety and security are top priorities for oil and gas operators in Texas,' Hastings said in a prepared statement.

"But the explosion of activity also has brought new economic prosperity.

"'It has been incredible, hundreds of jobs have been created,' said Webb County Judge Danny Valdez, whose county spans 3,360 square miles and borders three Mexican states. 'As a county, we depend on these revenues, we welcome it.”

"At the same time, he conceded that law enforcement in his county is already stretched.

"'Webb County is a vast land,' he said. “We need to find a way to work together.'”