No eminent domain; pipeline easements the result of meeting property owners' needs

On Nov. 5, Sister Claire McGowan held a 30,000-signature petition asking to ban the use of eminent domain in private companies' efforts to purchase land for the proposed Bluegrass Pipeline. The petition was delivered to to the governor's office.
On Nov. 5, Sister Claire McGowan held a 30,000-signature petition asking to ban the use of eminent domain in private companies' efforts to purchase land for the proposed Bluegrass Pipeline. The petition was delivered to to the governor's office. Lexington Herald-Leader

For the last three months, representatives of Bluegrass Pipeline have been meeting in the homes of landowners in 13 Kentucky counties to discuss the project and the prospect of purchasing an easement, which is the right to use a narrow strip of land for installation of the underground pipeline.

We're getting to know people and are beginning to become a part of the communities ranging from Williams town and Georgetown to Frankfort and Elizabethtown. To date, we have purchased easements for more than 60 percent of the route, and our ongoing community grant program is helping with a variety of projects including animal shelter expansions, community beautification and funding for life-saving equipment at volunteer fire departments.

Having built and operated pipelines in America for more than a century, we have developed strong relationships with hundreds of communities and tens of thousands of landowners across dozens of states.

The Bluegrass Pipeline team consists of Williams, a Tulsa, Okla.-based energy company, and Boardwalk Pipeline Partners which already operates several hundred miles of pipelines in Kentucky and employs hundreds of people here. So in a lot of ways, Kentucky is already home to us.

In Kentucky, eminent domain is an issue that has our attention and that of others. It's a topic of interest right now in the state legislature and is a matter in litigation with a group recently pulled together around this topic. Those public arenas of lawmaking and litigation do generate headlines.

To be clear, however, we have not used or threatened to use eminent domain to secure easements for the project.

Instead, our efforts and resources are largely focused on kitchen-table discussions. So far, Kentuckians have received nearly $27 million for easements, much of which will flow through local economies. We've also learned that this opportunity has allowed families to address important needs in their lives such as long-delayed surgeries, paying off debts and upgrading vehicles and equipment.

Pipelines and landowners have voluntarily coexisted for generations. It is our intent and desire to obtain all easements through negotiation as has been the case with our other projects.

We're focused on fairly compensating each individual landowner for the right to use a narrow easement on their property and they can continue farming, hunting and using the land as before.

In addition to compensation, we work with each landowner to determine the best route across his or her property. Using geologists, biologists, engineers and other experts, we take great care in studying the route and designing the pipeline in order to protect habitat and natural resources while minimizing disturbances during installation and provide the safest operation of the pipeline.

Bluegrass Pipeline is part of a larger design of our national energy infrastructure to make necessary deliveries of natural gas and natural gas liquids (NGLs) across North America. The bitterly cold weather that blasted across Kentucky and much of the nation in early January is recent evidence of how we depend on energy to heat our homes and keep the lights on. From our most basic survival needs to life's comforts, we all depend on energy.

Bluegrass Pipeline will be a common carrier transporting NGLs, which are natural gas derivatives with familiar names, including propane, ethane and butane.

These are the building blocks for many of the things people need and use every day — from seatbelts to medical supplies and baby bottles to smart phones. Many Kentucky manufacturers rely on NGLs in developing their products.

Efficiently transporting NGLs to market is a vital part of getting natural gas produced to meet the growing demand for residential and commercial uses, as well as electricity generation. NGL and natural gas production are closely linked and necessary to serve America's energy needs.

With the Bluegrass Pipeline, Kentucky will be an integral participant in providing affordable, abundant and accessible energy to American manufacturers. That means jobs, and it means Kentucky continues to play a part in our nation's energy security. Bluegrass Pipeline also creates opportunities for Kentucky businesses to tap into raw materials — these NGL supplies — that are significantly economically advantaged over supplies available elsewhere in the world.

For more information, visit BluegrassPipeline.com

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader