Andy Beshear 2018

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Attorney General Andy Beshear wants a seat at the table as Bernheim Forest argues that state regulators didn’t require enough transparency for a Louisville Gas & Electric Co. pipeline in Bullitt County.

He also is seeking a broader investigation into the pipeline planned south of Shepherdsville.

"Yes, we need infrastructure in the United States, but I think we all ought to be able to sit down and discuss what the appropriate path is, and certainly those with objections ought to be able to argue those objections," Beshear said in an interview with WDRB News. "There ought to be full disclosure and transparency about all aspects of the project."

Bernheim filed a complaint earlier this month with the Kentucky Public Service Commission, claiming LG&E skirted state law and regulations in its application for the 12-mile natural gas line that would cross conservation land owned by the forest group.

The commission approved the LG&E pipeline plan in 2017 as part of a case mainly about rate increases. But it didn’t make LG&E apply for a key approval known as a “certificate of public convenience and necessity.”

Instead, regulators approved the certificate during the rate case. 

Bernheim argues that requiring that would have led to “public notice and an opportunity to be heard regarding the necessity for and routing of such a pipeline.” It and neighbors have criticized a commission process that kept the pipeline’s route secret until after it was approved.

In his request to intervene in Bernheim’s complaint, Beshear asks that Bernheim’s concerns be expanded to include all matters related to the pipeline. He specifically cites the forest organization’s issues with LG&E’s failure to seek the certificate and other “tactics,” including allegations that it coerced landowners to grant easements.

The motion by Beshear's office also questions the proposed pipeline's cost, which has increased to an estimated $38.7 million, from $27.6 million, and notes previous safety concerns over LG&E pipelines. 

"In light of recent occurrences, Kentuckians deserve to know that pipelines running across their property comply with all legal standards, safety or otherwise," it says.

Beshear, a Democrat who is running for Kentucky governor against incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin, says in his filing that “LG&E’s inappropriate use of its monopoly status to pressure others into agreeing with its projects is not new to the Company.”

He also cited the explosion of a natural gas pipeline in Lincoln County earlier this month. One person died when that line ruptured south of Danville.

“Pipeline location and safety are serious matters that this Commission and Kentucky communities continue to grapple with. Since the recent devastating interstate pipeline explosion, Kentuckians are asking more questions and expressing concern about pipeline safety,” Beshear wrote.

Andrew Melnykovych, a Public Service Commission spokesman, said Beshear’s office by law will be allowed to intervene in the case. He declined to comment on the attorney general’s request to broaden the scope of the complaint, saying he had not seen it.

LG&E has filed condemnation lawsuits in Bullitt County against property owners who have declined to sell temporary or permanent easements for pipeline construction. The utility says it isn't surprised by Beshear's involvement. It's said the project is safe and the path the pipeline would take is the "least impactful route."

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Reach reporter Marcus Green at 502-585-0825, mgreen@wdrb.com, on Twitter or on Facebook. Copyright 2019 WDRB Media. All rights reserved.

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Marcus Green joined WDRB News in 2013 after 12 years as a staff writer at the Louisville Courier-Journal. He reports on transportation, development and local and state government.