Lawmakers hear Bluegrass Pipeline testimony

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FRANKFORT—A proposed interstate natural gas liquids pipeline that would impact landowners in at least 25 Kentucky counties, including Grant, does not qualify under the state’s eminent domain law, the head of the state’s Energy and Environment Cabinet yesterday quoted his agency’s general counsel as saying.
Cabinet Secretary Len Peters made the comment during the Sept. 4 meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Natural Resources and Environment in Frankfort.  He said while his agency does not have the authority to stop the proposed “Bluegrass Pipeline” project—which would transport natural gas liquids (NGLs) like ethane and propane extracted from natural gas deposits —the Cabinet’s legal counsel does not believe the power of eminent domain can be invoked by the companies hoping to establish the 1,123 mile NGL pipeline.
Mike McMahon, chief general counsel for Boardwalk—half of the team of Williams and Boardwalk that plans to build the Bluegrass Pipeline—said Kentucky law does give the companies the power of eminent domain, if necessary in order to obtain right-of-way. Eminent domain can be invoked under Kentucky law for public use projects, and McMahan said the pipeline qualifies since it would transport oil and gas products “in public service.”
Right-of-acquisition, permitting, regulatory consultation, and surveys undertaken by Williams and Boardwalk as part of the Bluegrass Pipeline project is expected to continue into 2014.  The timeline for the project, found at www.bluegrasspipeline.com, says the pipeline should be operational by late 2015.
The project would require acquisition of right-of-way for 160 miles of converted pipeline and 180 miles of new pipeline in Kentucky, according to Williams Senior Vice President for Corporate and Strategic Development Jim Scheel. Scheel said Williams and Boardwalk are prepared to pay between $30 million and $50 million to Kentucky landowners to acquire the right-of-way while leaving the deeds in the landowners’ hands.
He assured the committee and the large public audience at the meeting that the Bluegrass Pipeline project would be well regulated at both the federal and state levels, that land acquired for the project would be left in “usable” condition, and the project would bring jobs to the Commonwealth.  Scheel said the pipeline project would bring at least $136 million in tax revenue to the state, along with around 1,500 construction jobs and the $30 million to $50 million in payments to landowners.
Attorney Tom FitzGerald of the Kentucky Resources Council, which advocates for landowners who are opposed to the project. Besides questioning the pipeline’s safety in light of recent NGL pipeline leaks, FitzGerald said he agrees with Peters’ staff that the Bluegrass Pipeline does not qualify to invoke Kentucky’s eminent domain statute.
(Provided by LRC News.)