"Leading-edge" pipeline safety bill filed in Kentucky General As - WDRB 41 Louisville News

"Leading-edge" pipeline safety bill filed in Kentucky General Assembly

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Pipeline operators would have to submit detailed plans for cleaning up spills under a bill filed in the Kentucky General Assembly.

House Bill 272, sponsored by Rep. David Floyd of Bardstown, also would establish a pipeline safety fund using fees on all companies operating lines in the state and broaden the inspection powers of the Kentucky Public Service Commission.

“No other state would have a more comprehensive capability of monitoring pipelines within their sovereign borders,” Floyd said in an interview. “This is a leading-edge bill on pipeline safety.”

Floyd, a Republican, said his bill is intended to help prevent incidents such as the pipeline rupture near Knifley, Ky., last February that destroyed two houses and caused an estimated $1.8 million in damages.

The Public Service Commission currently acts on behalf of the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to inspect only intrastate lines carrying natural gas. The PSC doesn't have oversight of interstate lines, such as the Columbia Gulf Transmission pipe that runs between Hartsville, Tenn., and Clementsville, Ky.

The bill would allow the PSC to monitor and inspect interstate gas lines and all pipes carrying hazardous liquids, such as crude oil and natural gas liquids. Texas-based energy giant Kinder Morgan wants to convert about 256 miles of pipeline in Kentucky to carry natural gas byproducts from the northeast to refineries in the Gulf Coast.

“We would have the ability to monitor all pipelines along all their routes,” Floyd said.

HB 272 was assigned to the House Tourism Development and Energy Committee. It calls for pipeline operators paying $120 for each mile of line in Kentucky, generating an estimated $3 million per year, Floyd said.

The fees would be in place for six years, ending in July 2022. Among the money generated:

-45 percent would be used by the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection to oversee the spill response program

-45 percent would be go to the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet for a grant program for local governments, which could use funds to buy equipment to respond to a spill and train firefighters and other first responders

-The PSC would get 10 percent for its expanded inspection work

PSC spokesman Andrew Melnykovych said it would be inappropriate to comment until the agency speaks with lawmakers about the Floyd's bill. The Energy and Environment Cabinet is reviewing the bill, spokesman Dick Brown said.

Rebecca Craven, program director for the Bellingham, Wash.-based Pipeline Safety Trust advocacy group, said Kentucky would join two other states -- Washington and Minnesota – with such broad oversight of pipeline safety. The proposed grant program is unique, she said.

“It is a fairly comprehensive bill. It would be a big step forward for Kentucky,” Craven said.

Other states have taken steps to ensure plans are in place if a pipeline leaks hazardous chemicals. New Hampshire, for example, enacted a law last year with stricter standards for companies transporting crude oil than is required under federal law.

Sheridan T. Brown, a Grantham, N.H., attorney and pipeline safety advocate, said the law was in response to a proposed Kinder Morgan crude oil line between Portland, Maine, and Montreal.

“We said, 'This is an area where we really need to take control of our own destiny and be adequately protected,'” Brown said.

Floyd said he welcomes debate on his bill to address concerns, such as those from representatives of pipeline companies worried about the impact on customers' rates.

“What I'm hoping for, at the very least, the fallback, is to have a hearing on it,” he said.

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