Image from “LG&E spurned Bullitt County pipeline route recommended in 2015 study.” Article by Marcus Green of WDRB; Used with permission
In April 2019, LG&E, a utility company based in Louisville, Kentucky, announced the construction of a new natural gas transmission pipeline in Bullitt County. This pipeline was explained as necessary in order for LG&E to meet the growth in the area and to provide backup gas service to existing customers. In May 2019, the LeoWeekly reported that the proposed line would run through land owned by Bernheim Arboretum & Research Forest, a 16,000-acre nature preserve located inside Bullitt County. Andrew Berry, Director of Conservation at Bernheim, explained to the Leo Weekly that "the pipeline would run three-quarters of a mile through 494 acres that the research forest bought in 2018 to protect from development, called the Cedar Grove wildlife corridor." On its website, Bernheim explains that the proposed route would "cut directly through an area that is home to federally endangered Indiana bats, northern long-eared bats, Kentucky glade cress, globally imperiled bluff vertigo snail, and the recently discovered critically imperiled hidden springsnail."
Also in May 2019, WDRB reported that EnSite USA, a pipeline engineering company, recommended that LG&E build a 13-mile pipeline starting near Cox's Creek in Nelson County, Kentucky and running northwest to the Jim Beam American Stillhouse Distillery, south of Shepherdsville. As WDRB reported, this recommended route was slightly better than a 15.5-mile path between Bardstown and the aforementioned distillery that also would travel northward. As WDRB reported, ... "instead of those routes, or any others EnSite analyzed, LG&E decided to start its line farther north near Mount Washington and send it southwest, traveling south of the Salt River before crossing rugged land that was later purchased by Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest." This, despite the recommendation from LGE's consultant that Bernheim property be avoided.
Tom FitzGerald, KRC Director, states on the matter, "This action by LG&E underscores the need for a thorough terrestrial and aquatic biological assessment along the chosen route. Please contact the Louisville District of the Corps of Engineers, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service office in Frankfort, Kentucky and ask that LG&E be required to obtain an individual Section 404 permit with a full Environmental Assessment."
On July 3, WFPL reported that LG&E intends to use condemnation against private landowners in Bullitt County in an effort to gain the remaining 15% of land access needed to construct the proposed pipeline. When interviewed by WFPL, FitzGerald stated, “once LG&E has made an unsuccessful offer on a property, the utility can proceed under the Kentucky Eminent Domain Act...there’s always a risk in buying property before all the necessary permits are in place. The path of the proposed pipeline could impact habitat for rare, threatened and endangered species. It will also impact stream crossings and wetlands protected under the Clean Water Act...You also have the question of whether there are alternatives that would have less of a dramatic impact on waterways and on those species. And given the inappropriate manner in which the project was granted a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity by the Public Service Commission when the company had not applied for one, and the public was not on notice of the proposed pipeline, LG&E's path forward is anything but certain.”
KRC is working hard to represent Bernheim in this ongoing issue, and your voice can make a difference, too. If you're interested in getting involved, please consider contacting the Corps of Engineers and the Fish and Wildlife Service using the information below. As LG&E studies possible routes for a pipeline in Bullitt County, now is the time to demand that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers consider not merely the water crossings and wetland loss, but also the impacts on terrestrial rare and endangered species and public and private lands, and that the Corps demand an individual 404 permit application and a complete terrestrial and aquatic biological assessment along the chosen route.
Louisville District of the Corps of Engineers
Louisville District Regulatory Division Office, South Branch
For more information on this issue:
Forest Under Threat, Information from Bernheim Arborteum & Research Forest
Progress vs. Preservation in
LG&E vs. Bernheim, by Danielle Grady of the Leo-Weekly
LG&E spurned Bullitt County pipeline route recommended in 2015 study, by Marcus Green of WDRB
LG&E To Sue Landowners Over Bullitt County Pipeline Access, by Ryan Van Velzer of WFPL