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Blockage for the pipeline

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By Stephen Lega

The Bluegrass Pipeline is being delayed for at least one year. The Williams Company, one of the partners in the project, announced last week that the Bluegrass Pipeline is now scheduled to be in service by mid-2016.
That announcement was included in Williams’ 2013 year-end financial report. According to that report, Williams made a net profit of $859 million in 2012. That dropped to $430 million last year.
I’m no financial analyst, but I suspect a decline in profit of $429 million in one year may have been a factor in the Bluegrass Pipeline delay.
Of course, that isn’t the only news that may affect the progress of the Bluegrass Pipeline.
A natural gas line belonging to Columbia Gas Transmission exploded Feb. 13 in Adair County. The explosion sent two people to the hospital, damaged two homes and part of the third, according to reporting by the Lexington Herald-Leader.
Thankfully, both people survived without serious injuries.
To be clear, Columbia Gas is not one of the companies involved in the Bluegrass Pipeline, and natural gas is different than natural gas liquids. With that in mind, the explosion opened a crater 40 to 60 feet wide, according to different news reports.
Even legislators can see a hole that big. Our own State Rep. Terry Mills definitely noticed.
According to the Courier-Journal, the natural gas line in Adair County was 30-feet below ground. By comparison, Bluegrass Pipeline officials have spoke of burying that pipeline as little as three feet below the surface.
“It seems to me the danger would be just as great, if not greater, if a natural gas liquids pipeline exploded,” Mills told me Monday.
Bluegrass Pipeline opponents will want to know that both of our local state legislators have been working to clarify the laws about eminent domain in Kentucky. Bluegrass Pipeline representatives have said they would only pursue eminent domain as a last resort, but they’ve also been clear that they do consider it an option.
State Sen. Jimmy Higdon said the only people who seem to think they can use eminent domain are the companies involved in the project. The Kentucky Attorney General, Public Service Commission Officials and the Governor’s Office have said they do not think the Bluegrass Pipeline would qualify for eminent domain.
Regardless, Higdon and Mills have both sponsored legislation aimed at clarifying eminent domain laws in Kentucky. The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing last week on one of those bills, House Bill 31. Mills, who is not a member of that committee, expects another hearing and possibly a committee vote on the bill this week.
“I like to think that I’m for economic development, but it’s a matter of balancing that with private property and safety concerns,” Mills said.
While he thinks HB 31 has support, he was hesitant to say for sure that it would get to the governor’s desk.
Higdon said when he’s tried to lobby his fellow legislators on NGL pipeline matters, only the ones in counties that are directly affected seem to be concerned.
With that in mind, the Bluegrass Pipeline isn’t the only project Marion Countians should be aware of.
Kinder Morgan Energy is also looking to convert some of the existing Tennessee Gas Pipeline from carrying natural gas to natural gas liquids. What property owners can do about the Kinder Morgan project remain uncertain.
That line already runs through Marion County, and Mills said one of his concerns is that those pipes are 40 to 60 years old.
“Environmental concerns are much greater today than they were 40 to 60 years ago,” Mills said.
Something tells me Mills isn’t alone.