Politics & Government

Could a 1940s pipeline carrying hazardous liquids in Kentucky be stopped? Feds give answer.

The Tennessee Gas Pipeline crosses a portion of Herrington Lake between Boyle and Garrard counties. It carries natural gas now, but a proposed conversion means it would carry natural gas liquids. The project also would mean putting the pipeline through limestone beneath the lakebed.
The Tennessee Gas Pipeline crosses a portion of Herrington Lake between Boyle and Garrard counties. It carries natural gas now, but a proposed conversion means it would carry natural gas liquids. The project also would mean putting the pipeline through limestone beneath the lakebed. gkocher1@herald-leader.com

A federal commission has denied a stay requested by three environmental groups in the conversion of a Kentucky pipeline from carrying natural gas to natural gas liquids, reports a Danville newspaper.

The Advocate-Messenger in Danville reported Saturday that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission found that “justice does not require a stay.”

The commission last October authorized the conversion of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline, saying it does not “constitute a major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.”

But opponents claimed that the pipe was hazardous and asked for the stay.

The pipeline runs 964 miles from Louisiana to northeast Ohio. It passes through 18 Kentucky counties, a total of 256 miles from Simpson County to Greenup County. The pipeline crosses over Herrington Lake, the primary source of drinking water for Danville and other communities.

Kinder Morgan, the parent company of the line, wants to sell the line to an affiliate that would convert it for natural gas liquids. Those liquids, which can be produced during hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, are used in agriculture, petrochemicals and plastics.

The line dates to the mid-1940s. Opponents of the project have expressed concerns that the 70-year-old pipe has welds that weren’t made under current standards. Yet, it will carry a heavier, more explosive substance. Critics cite the potential for explosions and breaks that would contaminate water and soil.

But the energy commission said it is not unusual to convert pipelines. The conversion of the line would cost an estimated $412 million.

The Danville newspaper said a stay would have prevented Kinder Morgan from pursuing its plan until the federal commission decides whether to rehear the case — a decision it has not yet made.

“In order to support a stay, the (environmental groups) must substantiate that irreparable injury is ‘likely’ to occur,” the commission said in denying the stay.

“The injury must be both certain and great and it must be actual and not theoretical,” the order reads. “Bare allegations of what is likely to occur do not suffice.”

The three environment groups seeking the stay were Allegheny Defense Project, a group based in Pennsylvania; and two Kentucky-based organizations — Kentucky Resources Council and Kentucky Heartwood. In court documents, they are often referred to simply as “Allegheny.”

Opponents expect local zoning ordinances along the pipeline’s route, including one in Boyle County that requires a conditional use permit for transporting hazardous liquids, to be a potential final hurdle for the pipeline conversion.

Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198, @BGPolitics

  Comments