With the rise in fracking for shale gas, so too comes a rise in pipelines and other infrastructure used to get the product to market. One such pipeline, the Bluegrass Pipeline, is proposed to cut a swath through 15 counties in my home state of Ohio, and it’s a bad deal.
The pipeline would carry natural gas liquids (NGLs), a variable and hazardous mix of ethane, propane, butane and more, as opposed to the natural gas, which is composed mostly of methane, and used to heat homes. All of it comes from fracking, and it’s clear that the plan is to drill and frack much of the state, only to ship the product to the highest bidder overseas. Proposed to originate in the northeastern United States the pipeline would run through Ohio and Kentucky, where it would then connect with an existing pipeline that goes all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico, targeting export and petrochemical markets.
The project, a joint venture of Williams Company and Boardwalk, is also hinging on three facilities proposed for construction at the end point – a storage facility, a plant to separate all the different NGLs and an export export facility.
Could it be more obvious that this pipeline is not going to benefit the public or lead to the “energy independence” that the oil and gas industry wants us to believe shale gas drilling will bring? It would benefit a wealthy few shareholders who want to extract the resources from our region to ship it off to fetch the best profit, risking everything in their path.
And what happens if it is built? Under the Hazardous Liquids Pipeline Safety Act, the federal government only inspects portions in designated “high consequence” regions. Many, if not most, of the rural portions of the pipeline fall through the regulatory cracks, leaving inspections up to the company itself.
We held a meeting with landowners in Williamsburg, Ohio, that a representative from Williams Company happened to attend. After the meeting, landowners questioned him about pipeline inspections. He told them they’d fly over and look for dead vegetation. The landowners didn’t like that answer, so he tried to back-peddle and convince them that it’s standard practice.
But, our friends at the Bluegrass Pipeline Blockade, who are opposing the pipeline in Kentucky, heard a different story. Williams Company told landowners there that they’d walk the pipeline to inspect it regularly. So, which is it?
In Kentucky, the looming question is whether or not the Bluegrass Pipeline will be able to take people’s land by eminent domain. The company maintains that while they don’t want to have to take private land forcibly, it could be an option for them. Emboldened by this threat, a group of residents have filed a lawsuit challenging the courts to clarify eminent domain law in the state. Kentuckians are also advocating for the passage of legislation that would make it clear that NGL pipelines, often transporting goods ultimately manufactured for private profit like plastics, do not meet the requirements to obtain eminent domain powers.
In Ohio, the company has already publicly admitted that it will have to work with landowners to get its right-of-way easements – and that it cannot rely on eminent domain. So, resistance to this bad deal for Ohioans is critical to stopping the entire project. Here in Ohio, landowners can reject the pipeline and not be forced into a deal. Anywhere landowners are approached to allow surveyors on their private property to determine where the pipeline might go, they have a right to refuse.
Recently, two Roman Catholic communities came out against the pipeline, declining to have their land surveyed for the project. Referring to their land, Sister Maria Visse told USA Today, “We feel entrusted with this. It’s a gift. It’s not a commodity.” Although one of the companies responded by making a statement that it would not cross the Sisters’ 780-acre historical property, the Sisters continue their fight to stop the project entirely.
It’s not surprising that the project is in trouble. Due to community resistance, the Williams Company announced that it has had to extend its “open season” for getting easements.ecently, Williams also announced that the project completion target date would also be delayed for a year.