FRANKFORT, Ky. — Land owners joined environmental activists at the state Capitol Wednesday to oppose a pipeline that would carry flammable liquids through several counties in northern Kentucky.
Residents who live near the proposed route said during a rally on the Capitol steps that they fear potential leaks and hazardous spills from the underground pipeline. The proposed Bluegrass pipeline would carry a liquid byproduct of the natural gas refining process from the Northeast to an existing 600-mile line that stretches from Breckinridge County, Ky., to Louisiana.
The protesters delivered a petition to Gov. Steve Beshear’s office asking him to put pipeline-related issues on the agenda for a General Assembly special session later this month, but the governor has so far declined.
Pendleton County land owner Stacie Meyer said she noticed survey markers going up near her property a few weeks ago, and searched the Internet and spoke with neighbors to find out what they were for.
“We found out that most of Pendleton County has no idea what the Bluegrass pipeline is or what kind of dangerous chemicals it is going to be pushing through the pipeline right under our feet,” Meyer said.
The controversy in Kentucky is an offshoot of the environmental debate raging in several states over fracking, a process in which water and sand is injected underground to access deposits of shale oil and gas. The material that would travel through the Kentucky pipeline would come from fracking sites in the Marcellus and Utica shale gas areas in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Meyer and other land owners said they’re concerned the two energy companies behind the pipeline project could use eminent domain laws, which give governments the right to take property for public purposes with compensation, to cut a pathway through private land. The new project would travel 500 miles through West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky.
Tulsa, Okla.-based Williams Co. and Boardwalk Pipeline Partners of Houston have formed a partnership to build the pipeline.
Tom Droege, a spokesman for the Williams Co., said Wednesday that eminent domain laws are used only as a last resort during land acquisition. He said the company is typically able to acquire easements from landowners for most of the path. The 50-foot-wide easements would be acquired with a one-time payment to the landowner, based on a property appraisal, Droege said.
The protesters said Wednesday they want the state to clarify eminent domain laws. They collected more than 5,200 signatures for the petition submitted to Beshear.
Beshear said in a statement Wednesday that pipeline-related issues won’t be a part of the Aug. 19 special session, but his staff “is monitoring this issue very closely.”
“Because there are a number of issues to be resolved before any definitive action can be taken by the Bluegrass pipeline owners, including whether the company can use eminent domain to acquire right-of-way, placing this issue on the agenda for the August special session would be premature,” Beshear said.
Residents said they are concerned the pipeline could leak chemicals into underground water sources.
“If it leaks, and I’ve never known of a pipeline that doesn’t leak anywhere, it will go straight into Kentucky’s water system,” said Sue Massek, a musician from Willisburg who attended the protest. She lives on land in Washington County near the proposed pipeline route.
Droege said underground pipeline transmission is safer than transporting the chemicals by rail or roadway.
The natural gas liquids are used to make plastics, medical supplies and carpet, among other products, he said. The liquids contain flammable substances including propane, butane and ethane.