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Marion County objects to repurposing pipeline

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By Stephen Lega, Landmark News Service

The Marion County Fiscal Court last week reiterated its opposition to pipelines carrying natural gas liquids in the county.

During the court’s Dec. 18 meeting, the magistrates unanimously approved a resolution opposing plans by Kinder Morgan to convert a portion of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline to carry natural gas liquids instead of natural gas.

The court’s resolution was greeted by a round of applause by members of the Sisters of Loretto, co-members of the Loretto Community and local landowners who have led the local opposition to NGL pipelines.

Marion County Judge/Executive John G. Mattingly noted that the court approved a similar resolution expressing its opposition to the Bluegrass Pipeline last year. That project, which has been put on hold, would have touched a portion of the county, while Kinder Morgan’s plan includes 19.7 miles of pipeline already in Marion County.

“This cuts right through the heart of the county, and it is also almost exclusively in the watershed area of the Rolling Fork River,” Mattingly said. “I think it raises some real concerns about the potential toxicity and what it could do to our water supply.”

Mattingly noted that this is a 71-year-old pipeline, and it has issues already while natural gas.

Magistrate Jackie Wicker asked if there was anything in the easements that were approved when the pipeline was installed that would prevent the company from switching to natural gas liquids.

Mattingly replied that the easements he’s seen were pretty open-ended.

“It’s completely open to anything, any material,” he said.

Magistrate John Arthur Elder III said the resolution is an excellent step for the county.

Magistrate Larry Caldwell said he would like input from Lebanon Water Works and the Marion County Water District about the possible effects of an accident involving NGLs.

“The whole county if something happens would be affected,” Caldwell said.

Magistrate Steve Masterson added that everyone needs to understand that this project won’t just affect a small portion of the county. Even an accident a half-mile from the river could get into the county’s water because of the local geology, he said.

“If it affects the water supply, it affects all of us,” Masterson said.

The resolution reads that the fiscal court has concerns about the lack of governmental oversight regarding natural gas liquids. The court also argued that easements were negotiated as long as 75 years ago, and current landowners should not be subjected to possible risks from new materials being carried under their property.

The fiscal court also urged action by state government, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Kinder Morgan.

In its resolution, the court asked the governor and the state legislature to require a review of possible negative effects of natural gas liquid pipeline projects and to limit condemnation and review powers to the Public Service Commission regarding public utilities.

The court also asked the Corps of Engineers to request an environmental impact statement for the entire Kinder Morgan project proposal, and it urged Kinder Morgan to work with state agencies the Corps of Engineers, to voluntarily commit to an environmental study and to foreswear any use of condemnation in negotiations with landowners.

In October of 2013, Allen Fore, Kinder Morgan’s director of public affairs, mailed a letter to the county about the project. In that letter, Fore wrote that if everything proceeds as planned, Kinder Morgan anticipated having the NGL project in service by the fourth quarter of 2015.

Two months ago, the county received an email about the project from Kevin LeFevre of Steele Land Services, which is also representing Kinder Morgan. That letter indicated that 19.7 miles of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline in Marion County are included in the proposed project.

In that email, LeFevre wrote that he was seeking information about the permitting process in Marion County for crossing Craigtown Road, Beechfork Road, Riley Road, Tatum Lane, Penick Road, Popes Creek Road, Josh Cox Road, Mill Dam Road, Jessietown Road, Carl Brockman Road and Livers Lane.