Kentucky legislators seeking eminent domain protections for land - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Kentucky legislators seeking eminent domain protections for landowners in pipeline path

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Two Kentucky lawmakers have pre-filed bills for next year's General Assembly that they say would help protect property owners from having their land seized for the proposed Bluegrass Pipeline.

Republican State Sen. Jimmy Higdon of Lebanon and Rep. David Floyd of Bardstown pre-filed measures Thursday specifying that developers of oil and gas pipeline projects would be eligible to condemn land only if they are regulated by the Public Service Commission.

Floyd said in a prepared statement that while he supports business and industry, the rights of landowners must be preserved.

"I might understand why some want to grant easement for the Bluegrass Pipeline Project through their land, but I cannot fathom the argument that those who want to protect their property must yield to government force for the benefit of a private company," Floyd said. "The taking of private property in Kentucky must be rare, and then only for public use."

In an interview, Floyd said their measures would strengthen state law.

"Bluegrass is unregulated," he said. "There's nothing in our state statute that covers a non (regulated) utility pipeline."

A project spokesman noted that the pipeline will be regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, even though the Public Service Commission doesn't currently have regulatory authority over the venture.

Higdon said he and Floyd are at "ground zero" of the proposal to build an underground pipeline that would transport liquid natural gas through Kentucky along a route stretching from Pennsylvania to the Gulf of Mexico.

The pipeline would cut through 13 Kentucky counties, including Nelson, which Higdon and Floyd represent.

"We make it very clear that if you're a pipeline and you don't have oversight by the Public Service Commission, then you don't qualify for eminent domain. You can't have it both ways," Higdon said.

The Kentucky Energy and Environmental Cabinet has concluded that the pipeline project isn't able to use eminent domain, but the legislation proposed by Higdon and Floyd "would clearly end any sort of question that they do," said Tom FitzGerald, director of the Kentucky Resources Council.

FitzGerald, whose group has raised questions about oversight of the pipeline and its possible environmental consequences, said he drafted the legislation at the request of the two lawmakers. He said pipeline officials have said they believe they can condemn land under eminent domain.

Williams and Boardwalk Pipeline Partners are developing the pipeline.

"Bluegrass Pipeline is about economic opportunity for Kentucky and America, it's not about eminent domain. We are currently focused on working with individual landowners along the pipeline route as we begin purchasing easements," project spokesman Tom Droege said in an email.

"An easement is a narrow strip of land (50-feet wide) where we would bury the pipeline. Landowners will continue to own the land and can use the easement much as before - to grow crops, raise Thoroughbreds and enjoy their land as they wish," he said.

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