Second pipeline eyes central Kentucky

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By Linda Ireland

On Friday, the Kentucky Senate addressed the controversial Bluegrass Pipeline.

The pipeline, if built, will carry natural gas liquids from Pennsylvania to the Gulf of Mexico, cutting a swath through central Kentucky. Natural gas liquids are the byproduct of natural gas drilling, and contain flammable materials like propane and ethane.

The Senate’s resolution, introduced by Senator Jimmy Higdon in special session, asks for two things:

  • The Public Service Commission is urged to examine the prospective pipeline, determine what agencies have oversight responsibility, and, if there are gaps, take immediate action to fill those gaps;
  • The entities engaged in property acquisition are urged to negotiate with landowners and reach agreement without any use or threat of condemnation.

Governor Steve Beshear declined to introduce the pipeline discussion in the special session.

Williams and Boardwalk Pipeline Partners want to utilize existing infrastructure and add about 500 miles of new line across Kentucky and Ohio. They’ve encountered resistance and a spokesperson has said the company would utilize eminent domain as a last resort to acquire the property.

Kentucky law allows some property to be seized through a court process if intended for the “greater good.”

Opponents say a private company, like Williams and Boardwalk, cannot assert that claim.

The opposing viewpoints have left many property owners concerned – and confused – about their rights.

Several county governments in the path of the proposed pipeline have adopted resolutions opposing the construction. LaRue County has not.

LaRue County Judge/executive Tommy Turner said the company does not have the right to use eminent domain – as it is not a public utility.

U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie, last week in a town hall meeting in Hodgenville, agreed with Turner.

He said he has been “watching with interest” as landowners and others protest the development.

He said the pipeline would be regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

While Bluegrass land agents continue to seek permission to survey property for the pipeline, another company is attempting a similar project.

Kinder Morgan/MarkWest Utica EMG wants to convert an existing pipeline to a natural gas liquids line between northwest Louisiana and the northeast through Kentucky. The line would link into the existing pipeline at Campbellsville, skirting the edge of LaRue County.

Kinder Morgan/MarkWest Energy announced the proposal earlier this month.

According to records in the Marion County Clerk’s office, the Tennessee Gas Line has easements and right-of-ways across at least 18 properties in Marion County. Fifteen of those easements and right-of-ways were established between 1970 and 1972.

Tom FitzGerald, an attorney with the Kentucky Resources Council, encouraged anyone who has a right-of-way or easement on their property to review that agreement with an attorney.

FitzGerald said property owners need to know if their easement agreements allow Kinder Morgan to change the product that is flowing in the pipelines that cross their property.

He added that the fact that multiple companies are working to carry NGLs to the Gulf of Mexico raises other questions, such as whether Kentucky needs to establish regulations regarding NGLs.

“We could end up with both pipelines being built when we don’t need both,” FitzGerald said.

To be clear, Kinder Morgan’s possible conversion of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline could be a few years away, and the company’s ability to complete the conversion would depend on the success of a few other phases of the project.

“Our project is in the very early stages,” said Richard Wheatley, Kinder Morgan’s director of corporate communications.

The first part of the project involves constructing two processing plants in Tuscarawas County, Ohio. According to the press release announcing the project, the goal is to have the first plant operating by the fourth quarter of 2014 and the second plant operating shortly thereafter. The next stage of the project would involve connecting the processing facility to the Tennessee Gas Pipeline.

Today, the Tennessee Gas Pipeline is being used to deliver natural gas for energy to customers.

According to Wheatley, the fact that the pipeline already exists is an advantage for Kinder Morgan.

“We don’t have to build new pipeline. It’s in the ground. It’s operational,” he said.

Wheatley added that the pipeline actually has multiple lines, and the plan would involve converting one line to carry NGLs such as ethane, propane, butane and possibly natural gasoline.

Before Kinder Morgan could convert the existing pipeline, it would have to receive permission from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to turn off a pipeline carrying natural gas. Part of what Kinder Morgan would have to prove is that shutting down one would not affect the customers who use that natural gas to meet their energy needs. Assuming they can prove that, then the natural gas flow would end along that one line.

At that point, Wheatley said Kinder Morgan would test the lines with water before running NGLs through the lines.

In order to complete their project, Kinder Morgan and MarkWest would need to build 200 miles of pipeline from the end of the Tennessee Gas Line in Natchitoches, La., to Mont Belvieu, Texas, south Louisiana or both places.

Kinder Morgan and MarkWest project they can have NGLs flowing through the Tennessee Gas Pipeline –– by the fourth quarter of 2015 if they can get “sufficient shipper commitments, permitting and all related regulatory approvals,” according to the press release about the project.

Wheatley said Kinder Morgan monitors its pipeline 24 hours per day through centers in Alabama and Houston, Texas. He added that the company regularly inspects the lines along the right-of-way markers.

A third project has been proposed that passes to the west of the other two proposed pipelines. Enterprise Products Partners has begun constructing the ATEX Express Pipeline, a natural gas liquids pipeline that will run 369 miles from Washington County, Pa., to Seymour, Ind.

The Lebanon Enterprise’s Stephen Lega contributed to this story.