House working on way to clarify eminent domain law in wake of planned pipeline
02/19/2014 04:47 PM
An overload of public interest delayed the first House committee vote Wednesday on a measure to remove natural gas liquids pipelines from the list of utility-related projects that would warrant land acquisition through eminent domain.
The measure, sponsored by Democratic Rep. John Tilley of Hopkinsville, comes as a company continues to try to build a pipeline carrying raw natural gas through 13 Kentucky counties. Representatives for the firm, Williams and Boardwalk Partners, said in public meetings last fall that the project was still looking to purchase land in the path the proposed Bluegrass Pipeline. It’s estimated that Williams and Boardwalk have obtained 70 percent of the easements that the need to complete the pipeline.That stoked fears among some residents along the pipeline’s path that the company could use eminent domain to take the land.
Tilley’s measure, House Bill 31, would clarify Kentucky law so that natural gas liquids would not be considered a gas product or oil. Therefore, private land could not be seized through eminent domain.
Amy Boone of Louisville said she has family members whose farm is in the proposed path of the pipeline in Nelson County.
“Surveyors and agents have been in our neighborhood in areas where land owners have repeatedly said no and they’ve pestered us on and off since last May,” Boone said.
Williams and Boardwalk has not tried to use eminent domain. But officials with the company have gone on record saying that they believe they have the legal right to declare eminent domain if they choose.
Andrew McNeal, executive director of the Kentucky Oil and Gas Association, spoke against the bill saying that the pipeline is important for economic development in Kentucky.
“The fact is the state of Kentucky produced over 15 million barrels of natural gas liquids from 2010 and 2012,” he said.
Tilley said his bill is not aimed at stopping the pipeline.
“We’re just trying to clarify the existing law that everybody says, at best, is murky, but at worst, leaves a hole to be filled,” Tilley said. “It’s not to thwart a project, the project is proceeding.”
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