Bluegrass Pipeline

Erica Peterson

The Kentucky Supreme Court denied a request on Wednesday by the Bluegrass Pipeline to consider an appeals court ruling that restricts eminent domain to regulated utilities in the state.

The Bluegrass Pipeline was originally proposed in 2013. It was a multi-state natural gas liquids pipeline that would have crossed 13 Kentucky counties, carrying NGLs from the Northeast to processing plants in the Gulf of Mexico. The project met a significant amount of grassroots opposition by residents concerned about safety issues and land and water contamination.

The pipeline company Williams officially put the project on hold in April 2014.

One of the factors that likely ultimately played into the Bluegrass Pipeline’s demise was the question of eminent domain. Kentucky law was murky on the subject. Williams representatives said they were confident the Bluegrass Pipeline would qualify, but some legal experts disagreed. Before the project was scuttled, a group of citizens calling themselves Kentuckians United to Restrain Eminent Domain filed a lawsuit, arguing that because it wasn’t a regulated utility, the Bluegrass Pipeline wouldn’t be eligible for eminent domain in Kentucky.

Erica Peterson, Kentucky Public Radio

Federal officials have begun reviewing a proposal to "repurpose" a natural gas pipeline that runs through 18 counties in Kentucky and is taking public comment about it.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is preparing an environmental assessment and will take comments through May 18 on a proposal by Kinder Morgan to convert its Tennessee Gas Pipeline to carry natural gas liquids instead of natural gas.

Some officials and residents in central Kentucky have raised concerns about the ramifications if there's a leak or an explosion, especially near rivers and lakes that supply communities with drinking water.

Kinder Morgan spokesman Richard Wheatley has said the company plans upgrades and would thoroughly test the line before returning it to service.

Erica Peterson, Kentucky Public Radio

Despite the fact that the proposed Bluegrass Pipeline has been suspended, the companies behind the project are appealing a circuit court decision that found they don’t have the right of eminent domain.

The pipeline would have carried natural gas liquids—like butane, ethane and propane—from drilling operations in the Northeast through Kentucky to processing plants on the Gulf Coast. The NGLs are used in manufacturing materials such as plastics and synthetic rubber, and some Kentucky residents expressed concerns about widespread water contamination if the pipe were to be built and leak.

In May, the companies behind the project announced they were suspending capital investment in the project due to a lack of customer commitments. This was after a number of setbacks, including a ruling from Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd that the Bluegrass Pipeline wouldn’t have the power of eminent domain in Kentucky.

Representatives of Bluegrass Pipeline parent company Williams said at the time that the company would seek to use eminent domain only as a last resort, but they believed they had the power under Kentucky law.

Company Promises To Be More Proactive As It Unveils Plans For New Pipeline

Jul 1, 2014

Texas Gas Transmission is planning to build a 30 mile natural gas pipeline through Henderson County, Kentucky. Known as the Southern Indiana Market Lateral, it will extend from Texas Gas mainline facilities in southern Henderson to Posey County, Indiana, to serve the new Midwest Fertilizer and SABIC Innovative Plastics plants.

Texas Gas’ parent company, Boardwalk Pipeline Partners, recently faced significant opposition to its natural gas liquid Bluegrass Pipeline.  To avoid the opposition they faced over the Bluegrass Pipeline, Boardwalk Vice President of Operations Rick Ashy says Texas Gas will be more proactive in meeting with and providing information to the media and public officials.

“We want to make sure everyone in the community understands the purpose of the pipeline, why it’s being built, what the need is," Ashy said. "We have to live and work in these communities ourselves. We want to be good corporate neighbors.... We have a really good reputation, we feel, with the community, and the communities that our pipeline crosses, including the Mayfield area, we go right through that community. And, we just try to keep a good relationship with the property owners because at the end of the day it’s still their property.” 

Texas Gas is working on projects to transport gas from pipelines at Lebanon, Ohio, which carry gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale fields. If completed, the Southern Indiana Market Lateral will transport 166,000 MMBtu, or roughly 166 million cubic feet, per day of natural gas piped from Lebanon.

Jonathan Meador

The CEO of one of the companies behind the Bluegrass Natural Gas Liquids pipeline says a lack of customer interest has led backers to halt the controversial project.

Stan Horton with Boardwalk Pipeline Partners says his company, along with Williams Co., is still having discussions with potential liquid natural gas customers.

“The Bluegrass and Moss Lake projects are not dead. We are no longer funding any capital for those projects, but the joint venture between us and Williams is still in place,” said Horton.

Horton spoke on a conference call with investors Monday morning.

The Bluegrass Pipeline project had drawn heavy opposition from environmental groups and some residents in the path of the project. It also sparked a debate in the state legislature concerning the rights of private companies to use eminent domain.

Pipeline Would Pass Through Hundreds of Waterways

Apr 14, 2014

U.S Army Corps of Engineers documents show that a planned pipeline project in Kentucky would affect more than 750 rivers, streams, wetlands and ponds during construction. The proposed Bluegrass Pipeline would carry natural gas liquids through more than a dozen Kentucky counties on the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

The Courier-Journal obtained a wetlands destruction permit submitted to the Corps of Engineers in December by the pipeline builders. The permit says the construction would require digging trenches through most of the waterways or drilling underneath others, as well as maintaining a 50-foot cleared right of way.

Opponents of the pipeline say construction would do lasting damage to the waterways.

The permit has since been withdrawn and the pipeline's builders have pushed back a proposed construction completion date to the end of 2016.

A Franklin County judge has ruled that Kentucky law doesn’t allow the use of eminent domain for a natural gas liquids pipeline. The move is the latest blow to the controversial Bluegrass Pipeline project.

The Bluegrass Pipeline would carry natural gas liquids across Kentucky to the Gulf of Mexico. The NGLs are used in manufacturing processes, but the project has been controversial because of worries about the project's environmental impact and safety concerns.

A measure to block NGL pipelines from using eminent domain is moving through the state legislature, but the Franklin County ruling adds another legal hurdle to the project. Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled that the pipeline doesn’t fall under the commonwealth’s definition of “public service,” and thus couldn’t use eminent domain.

Tom FitzGerald of the Kentucky Resources Council filed the lawsuit on behalf of several Kentucky landowners.

Kentucky LRC

The Kentucky House of Representatives has passed a bill that would prevent the use of eminent domain in the construction of a proposed natural gas liquids pipeline.

Lawmakers voted 75-16 in support of the measure, which would only allow public utilities regulated by the state Public Service Commission to use eminent domain.

The measure is aimed at the Bluegrass Pipeline, which would carry byproducts from natural gas drilling in the Northeast to the Gulf of Mexico. It's proposed to cross 13 Kentucky counties.

Bardstown Republican David Floyd says the bill doesn't prevent the pipeline from being built, it just protects landowners from corporations.

“The pipeline will proceed," Floyd said. "What we’re trying to do is protect those private property owners, protect those landowners from the big, multi-state, carpet-bagging companies that want to come here and condemn their property without proper provocation.”

The bill now heads to the Senate.

Kentucky LRC

A legislative committee has advanced a bill to clarify Kentucky’s eminent domain laws.

If the bill becomes law it would amend Kentucky law to clarify that natural gas liquids pipelines—including the proposed Bluegrass Pipeline—aren’t eligible for eminent domain in the commonwealth.

Legal experts have disagreed as to whether the Bluegrass Pipeline could use eminent domain to obtain easements to carry the byproducts of gas drilling through Central Kentucky. The Judiciary Committee heard rushed testimony from several landowners, but none of the representatives from the laborers’ international union in attendance spoke. The group has previously voiced support for the pipeline.  

Representative Johnny Bell of Glasgow spoke directly to those union members when casting his vote.

"Those of you who are up here today to protect your jobs, we all appreciate that," the Barren County Democrat said. "Your job is important to you and it’s important to us, but I feel that a person’s property rights is one of the highest rights that we have in this country, so I vote yes on that and thank you all for being here today."

Now that the bill has cleared committee, it will be up for a vote on the House floor before it goes to the Senate.

Bluegrass Pipeline Project Delayed a Year

Feb 20, 2014
Kentucky LRC

One of the companies wanting to build a controversial pipeline to transport natural gas liquids across Kentucky says the project has been delayed up to a year.

In year-end 2013 financial results, Williams Co. President and CEO Alan Armstrong said the in-service target of the Bluegrass Pipeline project was being shifted to mid to late 2016 "to better align with the needs of producers."

The 500-mile pipeline, being built by Williams Co. of Tulsa, OK and Boardwalk Pipeline Partners of Houston, would carry liquids through northern and central Kentucky.

A group of Catholic nuns successfully redirected the route of the pipeline off their land last year and other religious leaders joined them to oppose the project, delivering thousands of signatures to Governor Beshear's office in November.

On Wednesday, Beshear endorsed legislation that would protect landowners from having their land seized for the project. That bill received its first committee hearing in Frankfort Wednesday. It would require private non-utility companies like those responsible for the Bluegrass Pipeline to obtain consent from a landowner before building.

A statewide religious organization is urging Kentucky government to slow down and gather more information on the potential impacts of a proposed natural gas liquids pipeline.

Kentucky Council of Churches Director Marian McClure Taylor says her group wants a more cautious approach taken on the Bluegrass Pipeline, which would connect natural gas producers in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia with export centers on the Gulf Coast.

“We don’t want accidents to happen, if they can be prevented,” Taylor said. “We don’t want to be in a situation later where we say you mean you didn’t have your best engineers take a look at the idea of how you were going to re-purpose those pipelines or how they’re going to be constructed or where the pressure stations are going to be.”

One proposed path of the pipeline would extend through northern Kentucky southward into Nelson, Larue, Hardin, Meade and Breckenridge counties.

Opponents of a proposed natural gas liquids pipeline Thursday filed a lawsuit hoping to clarify whether eminent domain could be used for the project.

The Bluegrass Pipeline would carry natural gas liquids from drilling operations in the Northeast to processing plants on the Gulf of Mexico. For the past few months, pipeline company representatives have been approaching landowners, trying to purchase easements for the project. But while the company says it believes it has the power to condemn property if necessary, Kentucky legal experts have disagreed.

Penny Greathouse is a board member of Kentuckians United to Restrain Eminent Domain, the group that filed the lawsuit. She says the uncertainty is a problem for landowners considering whether to sign contracts with the pipeline company.

“I feel like there’s a lot of easements that have been signed because the person themselves have felt like they would rather be on the top end as opposed to on the lower end and they feel like they don’t know if [Williams] can take their property or not, so they’re just going to go ahead and sign, just to be done with it.”

By filing the  lawsuit, the pipeline’s opponents are hoping to find out the court’s interpretation of the law before a landowner ends up in court over the matter. They’re hoping for a decision in January.

Jonathan Meador

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.

A government watchdog group is urging Gov. Steve Beshear to call a special session this fall to pass legislation to protect private landowners from companies that have said they may use eminent domain to get right of way for a controversial pipeline project.

Common Cause of Kentucky delivered a letter to Beshear's office on Wednesday.

The Bluegrass Pipeline, being built by Williams Co. and Boardwalk Pipeline Partners of Texas, would cross northern and central Kentucky.

The material to be carried by the pipeline is a liquid byproduct of the natural gas refining process that is used to make plastics, medical supplies and carpet, among other products.

Richard Beliles, chairman of Common Cause Kentucky, said the pipeline would pose a hazard risk to the state.

Erica Peterson, Kentucky Public Radio

The chairman of the Kentucky House Judiciary Committee says he is pre-filing legislation that seeks to make clear that Kentuckians are free from the unregulated use of eminent domain.

Hopkinsville Democrat John Tilley says the issue should be clarified in light of the proposed Bluegrass Pipeline. The proposed natural gas liquids pipeline would stretch from Pennsylvania to Louisiana, and cut through an estimated 13 Kentucky counties, including Breckinridge, Hardin, Larue, Meade, and Nelson.

Some landowners in counties along the proposed pipeline route have expressed concerns that the company would seek to use eminent domain laws to seize their land.

Rep. Tilley said in a news release issued by his office that the bill he has pre-filed will “strive to maintain the proper balance between those rights and economic development when it comes to safely transporting fossil fuels.”

"I believe the state needs to paint a brighter line on how pipelines like this are built and where they can be located."

The bill would put the Public Service Commission in the role of gatekeeper if those constructing pipelines can’t reach agreement with private landowners.