After court ruling, eminent domain for Bluegrass Pipeline stalls - WDRB 41 Louisville News

After ruling, eminent domain ban for Bluegrass Pipeline stalls in Ky. legislature

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The Ky. Senate finished the main business of the 2014 General Assembly without taking up legislation that would outlaw condemnation for the controversial Bluegrass Pipeline project.

House Bill 31, which bans companies building natural gas liquids pipelines from qualifying for eminent domain in Kentucky, cleared the House by a 75-16 on March 21. The Senate didn't consider the measure, and a push by Sen. Jimmy Higdon to get a related bill heard on Monday failed.

Lawmakers are in recess until April 14, when they will return to consider any bills that are vetoed.

"I am disappointed that we weren't able to get legislation passed," Higdon, a Lebanon Republican, said in an interview Tuesday.  "But it's not the end of the world. We'll try again next time."

Higdon, whose central Kentucky district includes the pipeline route, was a supporter of the House bill and co-sponsor of a Senate bill that would have required utilities to be regulated by the Public Service Commission in order to condemn land. Higdon's effort to attach his bill to another measure on the Senate floor was ruled out of order.

Senate President Robert Stivers told reporters Monday that his chamber bypassed the eminent domain debate because the matter is working its way through the legal system. Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip J. Shepherd ruled March 25 that the pipeline developers can't condemn land for the project.

"Until it plays its course through the court system, we don't think it appropriate to do something, because the solution may come within the courts," said Stivers, R-Manchester.

Houston-based Boardwalk Pipeline Partners L.P. and the Williams Cos. of Tulsa, Okla., are developing the pipeline, which would carry natural gas liquids in roughly 275 miles of new or retrofit pipeline through Kentucky.

A Williams official promised to appeal Shepherd's decision. The Kentucky Oil & Gas Association also has criticized the judge's ruling.

Higdon said Senate leadership has been consistent in deferring to the courts in other cases. Despite the eminent domain legislation failing in the General Assembly, he called Shepherd's ruling a "victory for private property rights in Kentucky."

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