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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Attorneys for the controversial Bluegrass Pipeline have asked a judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed last month that seeks an opinion on whether the project has the power to condemn land in Kentucky.
That matter doesn't belong before a judge because no "actual controversy" exists over the use of eminent domain, according to documents filed in Franklin Circuit Court on Monday.
The developers of the natural gas liquids pipeline have purchased roughly 54 percent of the easements needed for its Kentucky route from willing landowners, according to court documents.
Kentuckians United to Restrain Eminent Domain filed the lawsuit in December, asking for a ruling on whether the pipeline, which would carry hazardous liquids beneath parts of the state, qualifies for eminent domain if developers' negotiations fail with property owners.
The group filed the lawsuit on behalf of a Franklin County farm owner who said in an affidavit that knowing whether condemnation is allowed will have a "significant bearing" on the terms of her negotiations with pipeline officials.
But attorneys for Bluegrass Pipeline Co. LLC say in their court filing that a judgment isn't warranted because no "justiciable, actual controversy exists." They note that pipeline representatives haven't attempted to acquire land through eminent domain or started any condemnation proceedings in Kentucky.
"Because of the absence of an actual controversy, this lawsuit presents nothing more than a request for a hypothetical advisory opinion, which is not permitted by the Kentucky Declaratory Judgment Act," attorneys Gregory P. Parsons and Chadwick A. McTighe of Stites & Harbison argue in court documents.
Kentuckians United to Restrain Eminent Domain, or KURE, claimed in its lawsuit that a controversy does exist, however, because pipeline officials have allegedly stated that they can use eminent domain under Kentucky law.
In asking that the lawsuit be dismissed, pipeline attorneys say KURE has failed to follow state law by adding to the suit all those who would be affected. (Only one property owner, Penny Greathouse of Franklin County, is listed in the suit.)
Eminent domain has emerged as one of several contentious aspects of the pipeline, which would move natural gas liquids -- hydrocarbons separated from natural gas before being transported for eventual use in gasoline, plastic bags and other products – from natural gas producing regions of Pennsylvania, to the Gulf Coast.
Several bills that would require oversight from the Public Service Commission before the pipeline could use eminent domain have been introduced in the Kentucky General Assembly.
Project opponents also have questioned the safety records of the developers, Boardwalk Pipeline Partners L.P. and the Williams Cos., and the wisdom of routing a hazardous materials pipeline through the region's karst geology.