State

Pipeline wins federal OK to carry hazardous liquids across Kentucky

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

The proposed conversion of a Kentucky natural gas pipeline has received federal authorization despite opponents’ concerns that the 70-year-old pipe was hazardous.

In a decision released Friday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said converting the Tennessee Gas Pipeline from carrying natural gas to natural gas liquids does not “constitute a major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.”

Tennessee Gas Pipeline appreciates the authorization,” said Melissa Ruiz, director of corporate communications for Kinder Morgan, the parent company of the line.

But opponents say they will now go to local planning authorities to ensure that there is some control should the project go forward.

“It’s going to be up to local governments, because there really isn’t any state regulation of pipelines carrying hazardous liquids like natural gas liquids,” Danville attorney Mark Morgan said.

Some local governments have already passed resolutions and ordinances.

In 2016, Madison Fiscal Court adopted an ordinance to require a special permit before construction and operation of compressor units associated with the pipeline.

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.

Kinder Morgan 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, “Modifying pipelines to be able to flow gas bidirectionally is a commonplace alteration. Less common, but not unusual, is the conversion of a pipeline to carry another commodity.”

The pipeline crosses over Herrington Lake, the primary source of drinking water for Danville and other communities.

The conversion plan proposes drilling a new pipeline under the lake. The Danville-Boyle County Economic Development Partnership went on record opposing that idea.

The conversion of the line would cost an estimated $412 million.

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