Ky. lawmaker makes push for stronger pipeline rules - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Ky. lawmaker makes push for stronger pipeline rules

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – New pipeline safety rules would allow Kentucky to be ready for a possible surge of hazardous liquids traveling underground in the coming years, a state lawmaker said Thursday.

Rep. David Floyd, who pushed unsuccessfully in this year’s General Assembly for a stronger statewide inspection program, said he plans to reintroduce a bill next year that would increase pipeline checks, create a safety fund and require spill response plans.

Floyd, a Bardstown Republican, told lawmakers meeting in Louisville that he is particularly concerned about energy giant Kinder Morgan’s plan to carry natural gas liquids through Kentucky in a 71-year-old line now used for natural gas.

“We believe that a more active monitoring is called for to detect these smaller leaks on all lines but especially older repurposed lines,” Floyd said at a meeting of the legislature’s interim joint committee on economic development and tourism.

The Kinder Morgan project involves converting about 256 miles of pipe that now cross through 18 counties in eastern and south-central Kentucky, passing through Morehead, Winchester, Danville and other cities. The line would be emptied of natural gas and converted to handle byproducts from the gas.

Kinder Morgan said in filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission earlier this week that it expects the pipeline to begin carrying natural gas liquids, or NGLs, in late 2018 after getting federal approvals and commitments from customers. Kinder Morgan’s plan -- repurposing more than 950 miles of natural gas line for NGL use -- is the largest of its kind currently underway in the U.S.

Floyd was the chief sponsor of House Bill 272, which failed to advance out of committee during the regular legislative session. He later amended the bill, which had originally included Louisville Gas & Electric and other utilities with distribution lines, to focus on transmission lines that cover large distances and typically carry large volumes of crude oil, gas and natural gas liquids.

Floyd’s bill would give the Kentucky Public Service Commission oversight over inspecting lines carrying hazardous liquids, although he said he is open to changes.

On Thursday, Floyd and Woodford County pipeline safety advocate Bob Pekny argued that NGLs pipelines deserve greater scrutiny than other lines, in part because of the possibility of undetected leaks that can linger for days.  

In 2010, pipeline ruptures in Utah and Michigan spilled more than 830,000 gallons of crude oil while going undetected by the operators’ leak detectors, according to the Pipeline Safety Trust, a Bellingham, Wash.-based organization. A Colorado leak in 2013 went unnoticed for two weeks and released more than 36,000 gallons of natural gas liquids.

“We understand the desire to have a pipeline to transmit this natural gas liquid,” Floyd said. “But because of the increased hazard potential associated with natural gas liquids, we believe than an increased … set of precautions is also wise.”

Following’s Floyd’s overview of his bill. committee co-chair Rep. John Short abruptly shifted the discussion to the decline of the coal industry and alternative energy sources.

“I’m sure there’s people here sitting in this room right now that wanted to shut the coal business down. Well, they pretty much done that,” said Short, D-Mallie. “Now they want to shut the gas business down. We can’t turn our lights on by the wind and solar. It ain’t gonna work. Y’all are in fantasy world if you think this is going to work.”

But Floyd said his bill doesn’t limit economic development or natural gas exploration.

“There’s nothing in it that attacks natural gas or coal or oil or anything else,” he said. “It’s just trying to get ahead of the foreseeable problems that could well occur in this different sort of product traveling through transmission lines that don’t do it right now.”

Rep. Terry Mills, D-Lebanon and one of the bill’s co-sponsors during the 2015 session, agreed and said he would like to see new pipeline carrying NGLs.

“When I hear things like the type of weld that was used to put those pipelines together is not even appropriate today, it’s not even used any longer, it just bothers me that we’re going to run this volatile product through pipelines that have been in the ground 70 years,” he said.

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