FRANKFORT — Opponents of a controversial proposed natural gas liquids pipeline that would run through Kentucky presented 5,252 signatures to Gov. Steve Beshear's office Wednesday, urging him to add the issue to the agenda of an upcoming special legislative session.
Beshear, in a written statement, later said possible legislation to regulate natural gas pipelines could wait until the 2014 General Assembly begins in January.
Only the governor can call a special session and set its agenda. Lawmakers are set to convene Aug. 19 to redraw the boundaries of state legislative districts.
Petitioners specifically asked for changes to state law that would give the State Board of Electric Generation and Transmission Siting the power to review any natural gas liquids pipeline and to only allow the use of eminent domain to take land for a pipeline if it is regulated as a public utility by the Public Service Commission.
About an hour after the petitions were delivered, Beshear issued a statement acknowledging that the proposed Bluegrass Pipeline "has created a great deal of concern and inquiry" and that he and his staff are monitoring the issue.
"However, 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. "Such action would likely add several days to the special session, at a cost of over $60,000 a day to Kentucky taxpayers."
Beshear said he has talked to House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, and Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, "and they agree that no other issues should be added to the special session."
He said there would be "adequate time" for lawmakers to take action next year "if we find that there is a need for state government to change its role in this process to increase protections for our landowners and for the protection of our environment."
Beshear did not mention that his son, attorney Andrew Beshear, has been representing the developers of the proposed pipeline.
The State Journal in Frankfort reported last week that Andrew Beshear works for the law firm Stites & Harbison, which has done work for Boardwalk Pipeline Partners, through its subsidiary Texas Gas, since 1995.
More than 100 people held a rally on the front steps of the Capitol Wednesday in opposition to the pipeline before the petitions were handed over to the governor's office by Tony Jones of Nelson County.
The opponents expressed concerns 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.
Officials with the companies have said the pipeline would provide a safe and reliable system for delivering natural gas liquids that are used to create fuels that America's economy depends on. Once in use, the pipeline would be continuously monitored for leaks by state-of-the-art sensors, the companies have promised.
Gina Scott of northern Woodford County said she is concerned about the safety of the residents in the 18 counties affected by the pipeline.
"It is a direct threat to our water supply," she said, questioning the companies' safety record. "It's highly toxic and flammable, and pipelines are not perfect. This is particularly dangerous."
The companies have said they would like the pipeline, which requires permits from numerous federal and state regulatory bodies, to be operational by 2015.
The two companies are holding informational meetings in the state this week.
The Franklin County Fiscal Court voted 4-1 on July 25 to approve a resolution opposing construction of the pipeline. Fiscal courts in Anderson County and Marion County have approved similar resolutions, 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.
Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com