KRC Calls On Bluegrass Pipeline Partners To Agree To A Comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement Posted: June 25, 2013
Statement Before The Nelson County Fiscal Court
June 18, 2013
Judge Watts, Members of the Fiscal Court, my name is Tom FitzGerald and I am Director of the Kentucky Resources Council, Inc., a nonprofit environmental advocacy organization providing, without charge, legal and technical assistance on low- and fixed-income individuals, communities, local governments, and other organizations on a range of environmental and energy issues. The Council, which I have directed since 1984, worked with landowners here in Nelson County to seek relief from oil shale leases in 1980.
The benefits and burdens of energy-related projects such as this Bluegrass Pipeline Natural Gas Liquids (NGL) Pipeline project, are never equally distributed. And while NGLs (including ethane, propane, natural gasoline, butane, and isobutane) have economic value, the production, transportation, and beneficiation (cracking) of these NGLs impose burdens on the communities where natural gas is extracted from shale and other geologic strata, those through which the separated NGLs are transported by rail or pipeline, and those hosting facilities where the various components of the NGLs are separated and processed for use.
Among the burdens that are imposed on communities through which NGL pipelines are routed, are adverse impacts on the use and value of property of individual landowners; impacts on roads, and land and water resources of local communities; on local governments whose capacity for emergency response, including fire, police, EMT, public health and environmental response services are already stretched thin and must now plan for a new hazard of relatively low probability but of catastrophic consequence potential Ė the potential for leaks and releases, fires and explosions associated with a pressurized NGL pipeline with the capacity of 200,000 barrels of liquids per day, expandable to 400,000.
As I began to research the regulatory framework for NGL pipelines, I became very concerned that, unlike the pipelines carrying the methane fraction of the extracted natural gas, which are regulated as to the necessity, routing, and environmental consequences, by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), there is no "certificate of public convenience and necessity required for a NGL pipeline. FERCís role with respect to NGL pipelines is limited to tariffing (rates) of pipelines after construction and before use.
The Council believes that, given the significant number of stream, river, and other waterbody crossings that the 500+-mile pipeline will entail, that in the absence of FERC review of the pipeline proposal, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) has the authority and the obligation under the Clean Water Act and National Environmental Policy Act to develop a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the entire Bluegrass Pipeline project (including the existing gas line to be repurposed, since there will be some new construction associated with that portion of the line).
We have notified the COE that we believe they must do so, and thus provide assurances that the various agencies responsible for avoiding adverse effects on land, air and water resources, fish and wildlife, historic and archaeological properties, protected species, and public health and safety, are coordinating the review of the necessity for and effects of such a project.
The Bluegrass Pipeline partners should agree to work with those agencies and the COE, and should voluntarily commit to development of an EIS irrespective of whether the companies believe one is required.
I want to thank Judge Watts and the Magistrates for stepping up and holding this meeting, and would encourage follow-up meetings in the evening for each magisterial district, at which time representatives of state and federal agencies such as the COE, Kentucky Division of Water, DOTís office of Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, and local emergency response agencies, can help landowners better understand the project and the role of the various agencies.
I would also encourage the Judge, and Fiscal Court, to work through the Kentucky Association of Counties and Kentucky County Judges Association, to coordinate information sharing and responses with all of the other counties across whose territory the pipeline is proposed. I would also encourage the County and Commonwealth Attorneys office to engage other county and commonwealth attorneys to assure that landowners rights are respected and that accurate information is provided regarding easements and rights-of-way, and eminent domain.
I would encourage each of you to contact the Governorís office and the leadership of Kentuckyís House and Senate, and your state Senator and Representative, to ask that the issue be included in the Special Legislative Session that has been called for in August of this year, in order that the regulatory gap that allows this type of pipeline to be constructed with no demonstration of necessity and no thorough evaluation of environmental and public safety and health consequences, be address by amending state laws.
Finally, to the landowners of Nelson County, do not agree to any survey, and do not grant any right of access or easement, without consulting an attorney. The right of the Bluegrass Pipeline project to use eminent domain, if it is exists at all, comes from Kentucky, not federal law, and that right has not been established by a court as of yet. Donít be bullied by anyone into ceding rights, and donít feel that you must accept language in easements or agreements for access that donít fully protect your interests.