The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission wants more time to complete its environmental review of a proposed conversion of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline that runs through Kentucky.
The commission had earlier said that it would finish the assessment by Sept. 2. But earlier this month, the commission said modifications to the proposed plan “require additional time for staff to consider.”
The agency now puts Nov. 2 as its self-imposed deadline. However, the agency said in its notice that “if a schedule change become necessary, an additional notice will be provided so that the relevant agencies are kept informed of the project’s progress.”
Kinder Morgan, parent company of the pipeline, wants to sell the line to an affiliate that would convert it for transportation of natural gas liquids instead of natural gas.
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If the pipeline is converted, the current south-to-north flow of product would be reversed so it would go north to south. Tennessee Gas Pipeline says the proposed change “represents an efficient use of existing infrastructure” because a new pipeline wouldn’t be needed.
But residents in Boyle and other counties are concerned about converting a line that was put into service in 1944. Mark Morgan, a Danville attorney who opposes the the proposal, reacted positively to the commission’s delay and said it’s possible the commission could seek an even more thorough review called an environmental impact statement.
An environmental assessment is a step under federal law in which the regulatory authority asks the applicant to submit material and conduct a preliminary assessment on whether it poses a risk. Then, if there is good cause to conclude that there could be a risk, the regulatory authority could go to the next step, an environmental impact statement, that generates new data, more disclosure and transparency.
“I don’t want to be overly optimistic, but I think it’s in everyone’s best interest — certainly the public, certainly the environment, certainly our community, and the applicant’s best interests — if there is a thorough environmental assessment and that it results in FERC requiring the applicant to do an environmental impact statement,” Morgan said.
“If so, we’ll start getting into material that needs to be released to the public. You get a real thorough gathering of information and probabilities. That’s what we really want and that serves everybody’s purposes.”
After the commission released its original schedule for environmental review, it issued a new set of data requests to Tennessee Gas Pipeline on July 21. Those requests related to proposed — but not currently underway — pipeline replacement activities near a mainline valve in Washington County, Miss., said Melissa Ruiz, spokeswoman for Kinder Morgan.
“To be clear, these activities were disclosed in Tennessee Gas Pipeline’s original application and are not new additions” to the project scope, Ruiz said. “It has taken some time for Tennessee Gas Pipeline to formulate its responses to these new data requests, partly because new field survey work was required.”
Tennessee Gas Pipeline anticipates responding to the new data requests in time to enable the regulatory commission to complete its environmental review by Nov. 2, Ruiz said.
“The commission, at its sole discretion, determines whether to prepare an environmental assessment versus an environmental impact study, though we certainly believe that an environmental assessment is appropriate for this project,” Ruiz said.
The existing pipeline runs 256 miles through 18 Kentucky counties, from Greenup County in the northeast through Simpson County on the Tennessee state line.
The pipeline crosses over Herrington Lake, the primary source of drinking water for Danville and other communities. Kinder Morgan wants to drill a new pipeline bore under the lake and through karst limestone, a plan that some people say poses risk to the community’s health, environment and economy.
The Danville-Boyle County Economic Development Partnership put out a statement in July opposing the proposal.
Meanwhile, in a separate decision issued last week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted Tennessee Gas Pipeline’s request to build a new natural gas compressor station in Madison County. That includes installation of a new 16,000-horsepower gas-fired turbine compressor unit, compressor building, station piping and ancillary equipment.
The commission’s authorization also includes installation of a new compressor unit at an existing station in Powell County and installation of another new compressor unit at an existing station in Boyd County.