Tribune-Courier General Manager
The Bluegrass Pipeline Project, a controversial topic in central and northern Kentucky, has not stirred much discussion in Marshall County, but an opponent of the project is hoping people will take the time to become better educated about the issue.
Tom FitzGerald, director of the Kentucky Resources Council, says the impact is greater than the project’s architects are willing to admit.
The project, stretching from Pennsylvania to the Gulf Coast, will include 16 miles in the northern half of Marshall County.
Locally, it will utilize a component of a natural gas pipeline already in place.
The Texas Gas Transmission pipeline is in the north end of the county, with eight worksites within a few miles on either side of the Calvert City Compressor Station. Texas Gas has several mainlines in the easement and the Bluegrass Pipeline Partners are proposing to remove only one of them from natural gas service.
The proposed pipeline will transport natural gas liquids from the Marcellus and Utica shale producing areas in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio to a rapidly expanding petrochemical and export complex on the Gulf Coast.
FitzGerald expressed concerns about oversight of the project and questioned the suitability of the existing lines that will be put to a new task in Marshall County.
“With the existing line in addition to the disturbances associated with repurposing it, the major concern is the integrity of the pipe, which was likely manufactured and welded under standards that are not as rigorous as today and whose age makes leaks, seeps and catastrophic failure a more significant risk than for properly constructed new pipeline,” FitzGerald said.
He is cautioning landowners who have easements with the Texas Gas Transmission line to be knowledgeable to protect their land.
He is advising landowners to obtain a copy of existing easements from the county clerk’s office and seek the advice of an attorney to determine whether those easements grant Texas Gas the right to transport natural gas liquids.
If not, he said, the company will have to secure new easements.
If approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission the work on repurposing the line would take place in the latter half of 2014, according to Tom Droege, spokesperson for Williams Co.
Droege said 31 landowners in Marshall County who already have Texas Gas pipeline located on their property were contacted by mail earlier in the year and made aware of the request for the Bluegrass Pipeline Project.
“Generally, landowners in Marshall County are not impacted,” said Droege. “The only change is the product being transported via the pipeline.”
The project is a joint venture of Williams Co. and Boardwalk Pipeline Partners, the parent of Texas Gas Transmission Co.
Much of the project in other areas of Kentucky involves the purchase of rights to lay new pipe along a route which will extend from Hardinsburg in Breckenridge County, passing between Frankfort and Lexington and crossing the Ohio River upstream from Cincinnati and on into southeastern Ohio, where it will split into two branches, one going into West Virginia and the other into Pennsylvania.
Boardwalk petitioned FERC earlier this year, asking the agency to allow it to “abandon in place” a stretch of Texas Gas transmission line. If approved, the line will be converted from a carrier of natural gas to instead carry a mixture of ethane, pentane, butane and propane.
In central Kentucky several religious groups have protested the efforts by the Williams Co. to purchase easements for new pipeline.
Droege told the Associated Press that the company is looking for a route around the 2,500-acre Nelson County property owned by the Abbey of Gethsemani. Droege said the monks who live at the abbey have refused to allow surveyors on their land.
The Sisters of Loretto, along with members of Baptist, Presbyterian and Unitarian churches, delivered a 36,000-signature petition to Gov. Steve Beshear’s office at the state capitol in October. The group of about 50 demonstrators called on the governor to oppose the project. They said the pipeline slated to run through 14 Kentucky counties is a hazard to the environment.
Just last month, the company said it would find a way around a 780-acre tract of land in Marion County owned by a group of Catholic nuns.