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By Ryan Quinn
Frankfort State Journal
In the roughly two months before state legislators reconvene in January to consider bills that could block the Bluegrass Pipeline, the companies involved in the project are nailing down easements — and opponents are meticulously trying to track their progress.
Pipeline agents have reportedly offered six-figure payments to some landowners along the proposed route through Kentucky. That route enters the state from Ohio through Bracken County and then crosses 12 other counties until it connects to an existing pipeline system in Hardinsburg.
Penny Greathouse said she got a call Tuesday, Oct. 29, with a $350,000 offer to bury the two-foot-diameter pipeline through her Franklin County property — hundreds of acres located along Woodlake Road between Georgetown Road and Jones Lane.
She said an agent had called her five or six times and visited her home twice, but so far she’s declined to grant an easement because she’s concerned about the up to 16.8 million gallons of natural gas liquids the pipeline would carry daily.
Greathouse cited a December 2012 natural gas liquids spill that contaminated water and soils with benzene in Parachute, Colo. That incident involved Williams, one of the companies partnering on the Bluegrass Pipeline.
“Who’s to say this thing will leak?” Greathouse said. “But if it does, it could be bad.”
Pipeline representatives have argued a pipeline is a safer method of transportation than trucks and trains.
Opponents have said in response that pipeline incidents are greater in scale, and if the pipeline isn’t constructed, it doesn’t automatically mean natural gas liquids will still be transported through the area by other means.
When asked if any amount of money would sway her, Greathouse conceded that she would “probably be as bad as anybody else” if the offer was high enough. But she said $350,000 is nowhere close to justifying what she estimated would be a mile-long path through the middle of her farm.
“Three-hundred fifty thousand? Uh, uh. We’ll just have to see how deep their pockets are,” she said.
Tom D. Isaac — the owner of Isaac Properties who told The State Journal in July that a pipeline agent had lied to him while trying to survey his property — said Wednesday he’d also received an offer.
Isaac, who owns land in Anderson County just across Graefenburg Road and the Franklin County line, said he didn’t even read the written offer, and tucked it away in a file in his home.
He said his permission couldn’t be bought.
“My son is one of the adjoining owners, what would I say to him?” Isaac said. He also sold some property to neighbors, and said he knows the pipeline — or, as he called it, “a sludge line with some of the most toxic materials out there” — would decrease property values in the area.
Isaac said he’s heard in the business world that everyone has his price, but he disagrees.
“I’ve run into some folks that can’t be bought,” he said.
Pipeline officials told the Associated Press earlier this month they had secured easements in parts of nine counties along the path. Officials told residents at a Scott County meeting earlier this month that they had purchased easements for 22 of the 182 miles of pipeline in the state, Louisville’s WAVE 3 News reported.
Company representatives did not return calls from The State Journal requesting the number of easements signed in Franklin County.
Bluegrass Pipeline is a joint venture between Williams and Boardwalk Pipeline Partners to transport the natural gas liquids from mining areas northeast of Kentucky to the Gulf Coast.
Anderson County landowner Tara Littlefield said she saw surveyors put up stakes at the beginning of October 200 feet from her property line and less than 1,000 feet from her home in the Avenstoke area.
Though it’s not on her land, she said it’s close enough to the playground she built for her 1-year-old daughter that it worries her, and said her brother has put off his plan to build a home there because of the project.
“From a safety aspect it really makes me nervous,” Littlefield said, adding she thinks the pipeline will cross Benson Creek three times in her area.
At a meeting led by opponents two weeks ago in Lawrenceburg, Littlefield showed a Google Earth map tracking survey markers she and others had spotted relating to the pipeline. The markers are close to the proposed route the companies released months ago.
Using the map, she and others at the meeting identified places where they said the company was having trouble breaking through. They referred to the area north of Green-Wilson Road and south of Benson Creek in Anderson County as a “firewall” of landowners who don’t want to sign easements — a potential block for the pipeline between U.S. 127 South and Graefenburg Road, around Isaac’s area.
In the event the companies can’t procure easements from some landowners and can’t reroute around them, the companies have stated they will use eminent domain as a last resort.
Whether the Bluegrass Pipeline has the power of eminent domain has been debated by lawyers and denied by the head of the Energy and Environment Cabinet. Opponents of the pipeline claim the use of eminent domain is a threat being used to acquire easements.
Editor’s note: Reprinted with permission through the Kentucky Press News Service.