Companies have acquired easements for 22 miles to run pipeline in Kentucky

gkocher1@herald-leader.comOctober 22, 2013 

GEORGETOWN — The companies planning to build a natural gas liquids pipeline that would go through Kentucky have secured easements for 22 of its 182 miles in the state, a representative told a crowd Tuesday night.

Over the entire 500-mile route from Pennsylvania to Kentucky, about 13 percent of the easements have been completed for the Bluegrass Pipeline, said Jim Curry, a representative of Williams Co., one of the partners seeking to build the pipeline.

The first easement obtained in Kentucky was in Scott County, Curry told a crowd of about 100 during a meeting at the local Cooperative Extension Service. Scott County Fiscal Court hosted the meeting so people could ask questions directly to officials with Williams and Boardwalk Pipeline Partners, the two energy firms that want to build the pipeline that some oppose.

Curry said Bluegrass Pipeline began purchasing right of way Oct. 1. The company expects to spend $30 million to $50 million to buy the 50-foot-wide easements in Kentucky.

Williams and Boardwalk propose to build an underground pipeline, 24 inches in diameter, to carry natural gas liquids from the Northeast to an existing connection in Kentucky that runs to the Gulf of Mexico. The liquids are the byproduct of the natural gas refining process used to make consumer products, such as water bottles, plastics and carpet.

Tom FitzGerald, an attorney with the Kentucky Resources Council, asked company representatives whether they would commit publicly to not invoking eminent domain if some property owners are unwilling to cooperate. Eminent domain allows the company to go to court to obtain ownership of private land for public use.

Mike McMahon, an attorney for Boardwalk Pipeline Partners, said he could not commit to that because there were instances in which heirs who jointly own property are divided on whether to cooperate.

FitzGerald pressed the issue, asking whether the companies would not invoke eminent domain except in those situations described by McMahon.

McMahon repeated that he could not commit. But he said invoking eminent domain "is not our intent. That is not our plan."

Last month, a state official said during a legislative committee hearing that the pipeline builders would not be allowed to invoke eminent domain if landowners were unwilling to participate. But the companies contend they have the authority to use the law to obtain right of way.

Mark Isaacs, a construction worker, asked whether a commitment would be made to hire local, skilled construction workers to build the pipeline.

"We want the contractor to use local folks," McMahon said. "The contractor is the ultimate decision-maker. ... We strongly encourage our contractors to use as many local people as they can."

Some 1,500 workers would be needed in Kentucky to build the pipeline.

Scott County magistrate Tom Prather asked the representatives to more clearly define how the pipeline serves a public purpose.

McMahon said the pipeline would mean more tax revenue for local government and would bring easement payments to property owners. The pipeline also could bring new investment and jobs to Kentucky.

Prather wasn't impressed.

"Those answers are going to have to become more specific," he said.

Magistrate David Livingston asked why the companies decided to begin purchasing easements before submitting an application to the Army Corps of Engineers, the first of several federal and state regulators that will scrutinize the project.

McMahon said the companies were willing to take the risk of paying for easements without approval of regulators so the project could move along.

The companies don't intend to file an application with the Corps until spring, McMahon said.

Some landowners and environmentalists have argued that the pipeline presents a risk of a chemical leak. Some governments, including Woodford Fiscal Court, have passed resolutions opposing the project.

Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety.

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