Opponents of a proposed natural gas liquids pipeline through Kentucky delivered a petition to Gov. Steve Beshear's office Tuesday morning, citing concerns over the project's impact on the state's environment and asking the governor to block it.
Roughly 40 activists led by religious groups from across the state delivered the petition to Debi Gall, a secretary in Beshear's office in the Capitol building. They spoke about the harm that the project, sought by Oklahoma-based pipeline company Williams, would cause on the Earth, which they referred to a gift from God.
"For too long, too many of us have stepped aside, looked the other way and allowed powerful, profit-motivated corporations to dictate to us how our environment is going to be treated," said David Whitlock, a pastor of Lebanon Baptist Church.
"And it's not been a pretty picture. We've ravaged the land, we've permanently scarred it, we have desecrated a sacred gift from God. And as part of the faith community, we today are simply here to say enough is enough."
The online petition got more than 36,250 signatures from across the nation, said Sister Claire McGowan, a member of the Dominican Sisters of Peace and executive director of New Pioneers for a Sustainable Future.
McGowan hand-delivered the bound copy of the signatures. Many of those signatures came from Kentucky, she said.
"We cannot afford any reckless plans to make profit at the expense of what is most dear and what is most sacred," McGowan said. " So we ask Gov. Beshear again, we ask all of our elected leaders to do every thing possible that they can to stop the dangers of this proposed hazardous liquids pipeline. There is so much at stake."
In a statement, Beshear said that he will continue to monitor the issue closely.
“The proposed Bluegrass Pipeline has created a great deal of concern and inquiry, and we understand that some Kentuckians are anxious about what this potential project may mean for their homes and property," Beshear said. "If we find that there is a need for state government to take action to increase protections for our landowners and for the protection of our environment, we will have adequate time to do so in the regular session that begins in January.”
Gall said that Beshear couldn't attend Tuesday's event because he was attending issue briefs that had been previously scheduled.
Beshear's son, Stites & Harbison attorney Andrew Beshear, has been retained by one of the companies developing the pipeline in Kentucky. The Governor's Office has denied that this presents a conflict of interest.
Opposition to the project is also manifesting itself in the statehouse. A pair of pre-filed bills have been introduced in the state House and Senate—BR 168 by Rep. John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville, and BR 129 by Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Marian, respectively—that would attempt to restrict Williams' ability to acquire land in the pipeline's path via eminent domain by limiting the instances in which that power can be used.
In a letter-to-the-editor published by the Lexington Herald-Leader Tuesday morning, Rep. Dennis Horlander, a Democrat from Louisville, wrote in opposition to the pipelineand indicated support for legislation in the upcoming 2014 General Assembly that would strengthen the state's eminent domain process.
"While the need for efficient, clean and affordable energy is a top priority, this pipeline infringes too heavily upon the rights of property owners in Kentucky. The companies proposing the extension of the pipeline hope to use eminent domain to connect to Southern states.
"During the next legislative session, the General Assembly must strengthen laws governing eminent domain to protect property owners. Our constitution guarantees strong protections when it comes to property rights and we should reinforce the protection with clearly stated regulations."
The grassroots effort will continue well into the 2014 General Assembly, said Susan Classen, a co-member of the Sisters of Loretto, which opposes the pipeline.