Woodford residents ask fiscal court to oppose natural gas pipeline

raretakis@herald-leader.comAugust 6, 2013 

Several residents asked the Woodford County Fiscal Court Tuesday to pass a resolution opposing a proposed natural gas pipeline that would run through the county, expressing concerns during a public hearing about safety, the environment and property values.

The 1,100-mile pipeline, proposed by Williams Co. and Boardwalk Pipeline Partners, would transport flammable natural gas liquids from northwestern Pennsylvania through West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky, where it would connect to an existing line that runs to the Gulf Coast. In Kentucky, the pipeline would start in Bracken County and end in Breckinridge County.

Stacie Catlett of Woodford County and others gathered outside the courthouse Tuesday evening with signs opposing the pipeline.

"It's not a public utility," Catlett said before the hearing. "It's going to benefit Kentuckians in no way. Once again Kentucky is being exploited for money."

Wendell Hunt, a representative from Williams Cos. of Oklahoma, responded to comments and questions, saying the pipeline has the potential to help the community's economy, particularly during construction. He said it will give Kentucky a "reliable, domestic supply of natural gas."

However, Hunt said he couldn't answer technical questions because he is not an expert. The two companies are holding informational meetings in the state this week where people can speak with experts, he said.

"We fear what we don't know," he said, inviting residents to attend informational meetings.

Multiple people expressed concern over safety and what would happen if the pipeline leaked.

Jerry Moody, a volunteer with the environmental group Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, wanted to know what extra protections would be put in place to guarantee safety.

Hunt reiterated that the company provides training for emergency crews and said the pipelines are constantly monitored. He said the companies take safety seriously.

Automatic shutoff valves are placed every 10 miles, he said, in case of a leak.

"These are everyday chemicals," Hunt said. "I am very concerned about safety and I believe these pipelines are safe."

Multiple residents were not satisfied with Hunt's answers and continued asking about emergency procedures. Others brought up concerns about water contamination and the loss of property value. Some gave emotional speeches describing the beauty of Kentucky.

The Franklin County Fiscal Court voted 4-1 on July 25 to approve a resolution opposing construction of the pipeline. The Marion County Fiscal Court has approved a similar resolution, while the Scott County Fiscal Court has approved a resolution urging the Army Corps of Engineers to complete an environmental impact study of the project.

Woodford County Magistrate Ken Reed said Tuesday that he expects the Woodford fiscal court to approve a similar resolution opposing the pipeline at its next meeting.

Pipeline opponents will gather at 3 p.m. Wednesday in Frankfort to present petitions to the governor asking him to propose legislation to stop the pipeline and put it on the agenda of a special legislative session scheduled to start Aug. 19.

Meanwhile, the companies plan to hold informational meetings from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Paul Sawyer Public Library in Frankfort and from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Pritchard Community Center in Elizabethtown. Members of the project team will be there to answer questions.

The companies have said they would like the pipeline, which requires permits from numerous federal and state regulatory bodies, to be operational by 2015.

Boardwalk Pipeline Partners, based in Houston and Owensboro, provides transportation and storage of natural gas and liquids and has more than 14,000 miles of pipelines. Williams Co. is an energy infrastructure company with 1,000 miles of natural gas transportation pipelines, among other pipelines.

Rachel Aretakis: (859) 231-3197. Twitter: @heraldleader

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