CROWD OF 60 CONDEMNS PROPOSED PIPELINE
Safety, environmental damage top concerns
By Ryan Quinn /State Journal
Public outcry over a proposed natural gas liquids pipeline finally surfaced in Franklin County after boiling over in other communities across Kentucky.
A crowd of about 60 people, including residents of other counties, packed into a Franklin County Fiscal Court special meeting Monday afternoon — the first public meeting the local government has had on the Bluegrass Pipeline project.
Through stubborn persistence — over the apparent wishes of Judge-Executive Ted Collins and magistrates Phillip Kring and Don Sturgeon to put off or limit public comment until a later date — the crowd essentially made Fiscal Court and a Williams representative hear its concerns. Williams is one of two companies partnering on the project.
Wendell Hunt, the lone Williams representative who attended, said at the meeting that the company had moved up meeting dates in response to public concern.
The pipeline discussion lasted more than an hour and a half and featured County Attorney Rick Sparks listing numerous incidents involving Williams and calling the company’s belief that it has the power of eminent domain in Kentucky baseless in case law.
“I’d like you to list in the last 10 years, for this Fiscal Court, every lawsuit and penalty that the Williams Co. has paid,” as a result of safety violations and environmental damage, Sparks told Hunt.
Hunt said he did not have a list available but could create one, and Sparks asked him whether he thought that was an important thing to bring to a presentation.
Sparks then read a list of several incidents, asking Hunt about each one. Hunt said he could not confirm nor deny many of Sparks’ questions.
Williams is partnering with Boardwalk Pipeline Partners to establish a roughly 1,100-mile pipeline that is proposed to run through eastern and southern parts of Franklin County on its way from natural gas mining regions northeast of Kentucky to the Gulf Coast.
The cargo will not be the commonly known natural gas, which is primarily methane, but a byproduct of the natural gas mining process that will mostly be used to make plastics.
The natural gas liquids are a flammable, toxic mix of other compounds that will be run through a 2-foot diameter pipe buried in most cases only 3 feet below the earth.
The pipeline is proposed to run under the Kentucky and Ohio rivers, Interstate 64 and U.S. 127 South, and near or through the Kentucky State University Research and Demonstration Farm and Stewart Home School.
Deron Rambo, director of Emergency Management and E911 for Frankfort and Franklin County, listed numerous concerns with the project, saying a problem would be low probability but high impact.
“Three feet’s not a lot for something that important,” Rambo said, saying the pipe could fall victim to accidents, crime and earthquakes.
After it appeared Collins was not going to allow attendees to ask Hunt questions about the project Monday in front of magistrates — Hunt said there was a tentative plan for an Aug. 7 open house at Paul Sawyier Public Library — Chris Schimmoeller, president of Envision Franklin County, stood up, calling Williams’ safety record atrocious and firmly requesting that the audience be heard.
“A lot of people came here today, Aug. 7 is three weeks out, this company has people on the ground right now, talking to residents of Franklin County,” Schimmoeller said.
Hunt had mentioned that the company expected to know a great majority of its proposed final route by the next meeting.
Schimmoeller challenged Fiscal Court to consider whether the pipeline should be in Franklin County.
“I would like that discussion to happen now, instead of waiting three weeks when all the permissions for surveys have been signed and this company has given out more gift cards,” Schimmoeller said to applause, referencing the fact survey agents for the company have been giving out gift cards to landowners.
Magistrates Larry Perkins, Jill Robinson and Huston Wells afterward asked Collins to let the people speak.
Collins eventually asked Hunt to write down questions from the attendees. Hunt said he would get answers returned to Fiscal Court.
Collins said he would, if the company agrees to a time, schedule a meeting of Fiscal Court to coincide with the company’s open house. He suggested a meeting at the KSU research farm, closer to the proposed path.
Fiscal Court, as magistrates discussed, could pass a resolution opposing the pipeline, but it would have no legal power.
Robinson said she thinks the more than 30 landowners who might be affected are all in her district. She said the only ones who could really stop the pipeline are the landowners from whom the company will seek to secure easements.
The meeting featured debate about whether the company could get eminent domain power to seize easement rights. If the pipeline were a natural gas pipeline that many Kentuckians could hook into, most indications are Williams would more clearly have the power of eminent domain.
But since the pipeline would instead carry natural gas liquids to the Gulf Coast, the status of eminent domain is unknown.
Sparks said he has found no other case in Kentucky in which a private company has earned the power of eminent domain to run what he called strictly a “transfer line” through the state.
“And (Hunt) agreed with that,” Sparks said. “Because it is true.”
Robinson said she wants to request an opinion from the state Attorney General’s Office on the eminent domain issue. Only public officials can request the opinions.
Hunt said the company hopes to submit a proposed route for the pipeline to the Army Corps of Engineers for a permit around January 2014 and have the pipeline finished by the end of 2015.
Gas pipeline fuels strong emotions
By Nancy Royden
Georgetown News-Graphic via Kentucky Press News Service
Scott County residents and the county’s political leaders heard Friday morning from a spokesman for a joint venture that is seeking to construct a natural gas liquids pipeline through portions of the county.
During a fiscal court meeting at the Scott County Courthouse, Wendell Hunt, of Williams Cos. Inc., met with concerned members of the public and magistrates to speak with them about the “Bluegrass Pipeline,” a joint venture between Williams and Boardwalk Pipeline Partners LP.
If things go as planned, the $2.9 billion project will be put into service in late 2015. It will lessen America’s dependence on oil from the Middle East, Hunt said.
Pipeline planners hope to start construction on the new portions of the project in January 2015, he said.
The proposed Bluegrass Pipeline would provide producers with 200,000 barrels per day of mixed natural gas liquids from Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania with the ability to increase capacity to 400,000 barrels per day to meet market demand, according to Williams and Boardwalk Pipeline Partners LP.
Scott County residents Linda Glass, Cindy Foster, Kathy Steinmetz, Homer White, H.M. Lewis, Amelia Cloud, John Mulberry, Judy Rembacki and others asked questions about the project or offered comments.
Rembacki expressed her concern about the impact leakage could cause to the environment, should one occur. She also said it is vital to protect water supplies because humans cannot exist without it. Additionally, she said the possible route, “sounds like a political gerrymandering map.”
“A lot of time, you can’t repair pollution,” she said.
A pipeline is safer than transporting natural gas liquids by rail or truck, Hunt said. Additionally, rail and trucking can be expensive, he said.
The pipeline would carry natural gas liquids from production areas in the northeast to the expanding petrochemical and export facilities on the U.S. Gulf Coast, he said.
“More than half the distance of the proposed Bluegrass Pipeline is already built. That’s a masterful plan that would accelerate the timeline and lower the cost,” Williams Cos. Inc.’s website states.
Some landowners in Scott County have expressed to the fiscal court they are worried about the possible installation of a pipeline on their property. Hunt said the project calls for one, 24-inch stainless steel pipeline buried three feet underground.
“I know we’ve had some concerns, but we address those concerns early on,” Hunt said.
He said those involved with the pipeline do not want to be in an adversarial position with the landowners.
“At this point, it’s only the survey that we’re asking for,” Hunt said.
If the pipeline is constructed in parts of Scott County, pipeline employees will walk along the line, fly overhead and monitor it to ensure things are running smoothly, he said.
Hunt said he does not have a proposed pipeline route he can show to the public, but he allowed those at the meeting to view a map under consideration.
Some of those in attendance at the meeting offered emotional statements, including one woman who was visibly upset when she talked about how hard her family worked to acquire the property they own and her concerns about possible environmental problems.
Steinmetz, a retired chemist, pointed out a recent natural gas leak in Colorado.
Foster, who choked up while she was reading a statement she wrote about her concerns, pointed out the Karst topography in the Scott County area.
Karst is an irregular limestone region with sinkholes, underground streams and caverns.
The fiscal court requested Friday’s meeting with a representative from the Williams Cos. and a public hearing to be held at night as well.
Public meetings are being planned in varying locations that will be affected by the pipeline, Hunt said. He said one may be held in Frankfort, but not in Scott County.
Stakeholders will be notified about the public meetings by letters, in newspapers and on the radio.
“Every land owner who will be impacted will get a notification,” Hunt said.
Magistrate Tom Prather said he would be appalled if no environmental impact study is completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers prior to construction of the pipeline through Scott County.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Louisville office’s media affairs personnel could not be reached Friday afternoon due to sequestration-related closure.
Prather also called the possibility of a private company seizing land by emminent domain “scary,” and said the project appears to be a “private endeavor.”
“That’s a grave concern to me as a citizen,” he said.
Hunt said companies in Kentucky would be able to use the pipeline for transportation as well, and said the pipeline could be perceived as a big railroad car.
Prather said the idea that the pipeline is a common carrier is “so far-fetched,” and he asked if it is reasonable to believe that someone in Georgetown would start a petro-chemical company.
Prather also said Williams Co. has operated in Kentucky for a very long time, and he called on its representatives to treat Scott Countians fairly.
“We would negotiate with the landowners in good faith,” Hunt said during the meeting.
Landowner John Mulberry spoke during the meeting and said he owns more than 400 acres in northern Scott County.
He, like many others, wants to learn more about the project.
“I think we need a good education on this thing. We all really don’t understand what’s going on,” he said.
Hunt said the dates, places and times of the public meetings would be announced soon.
Additionally, planners of the pipeline plan to hold open houses for landowners.
Williams is based in Tulsa, Okla., while Boardwalk Pipeline Partners LP has primary offices in Houston, Texas, and Owensboro, according to the firm’s website, bwpmlp.com.