U.S. regulators: Kentucky pipeline plan would not significantly - WDRB 41 Louisville News

U.S. regulators: Kentucky pipeline plan would not significantly affect environment

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – An energy company’s plan to abandon nearly 1,000 miles of natural gas pipeline in Kentucky and five other states would not have a significant effect on the environment, U.S. regulators have concluded.

As a result, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission decided that a more thorough report called an “environmental  impact statement” for the project is not needed. The agency said the concise review released Wednesday is “appropriate and sufficient for disclosing impacts.”

But that review stopped short of addressing issues related to the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.’s ultimate goal of retrofitting the pipeline to carry natural gas liquids. Agency officials said those activities are outside its jurisdiction.

Tom FitzGerald, director of the Kentucky Resources Council, said the commission’s suggestion that it doesn’t have to weigh those impacts are “fundamentally inconsistent” with the law, including the National Environmental Protection Act.

He said comments submitted over the next month could prompt the agency’s staff to rethink its decision and “make them realize that they can’t artificially segment the action that is squarely within their jurisdiction, which is the abandonment of the line, knowing full well what the abandonment is a prelude to.”

In fact, the commission acknowledged that the “majority of concerns” raised by people who submitted comments on the project dealt with the pipeline’s future.

Tennessee Gas, a subsidiary of Houston-based Kinder Morgan, has sought approval to cease using the line that stretches from Louisiana to Ohio and covers about 250 miles and 18 counties in Kentucky. The company then would start shipping natural gas liquids from hydraulic fracturing operations through the pipe in the opposite direction.

For that part of the project, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and state agencies would review the environmental impacts, FERC said.

A public comment period on the review released Wednesday runs until December 2 at www.ferc.gov/docs-filing/ecomment.asp. The docket number is CP15-88-000.

“We are pleased to see the Environmental Assessment issued by FERC today and are reviewing the conditions outlined in the document,” Kinder Morgan spokesman Richard Wheatley said in a emailed statement.

The line eventually would carry natural gas liquids, which are used in automotive and other industries and classified as hazardous materials under federal rules. It would cross nine major bodies of water, including the Ohio and Tennessee rivers.

In Kentucky, officials at Mammoth Cave National Park have raised the prospects of a pipeline leak contaminating the park and its watershed. The project also would "permanently affect" parts of the Green River Bioreserve Megasite in southcentral Kentucky, according to FERC.

In 2014, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration advised pipeline operators to perform new tests and take other steps when reversing the flow of materials through lines. The advisory came after pipeline failures in North Dakota and Arkansas.

Kentucky State Sen. Jimmy Higdon asked FERC for the additional environmental study in part due to concerns over the fitness of the Kentucky pipeline, which dates to the 1940s.

"I have real concerns about putting volatile liquids in a 70-year old pipeline," said Higdon, R-Lebanon.

He said he still believes FERC may change its mind and called the pending comment period "part of the process."

"There is still hope that we can convince FERC that this is an important issue, that our concerns are valid," he said.

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