Saturday, October 31, 2015

Bluegrass Pipeline Update

Quite a few of you have written wanting to know the latest on the Bluegrass Pipeline. Several have asked why I'm no longer updating this page. To address your first question, we are so appreciative of everyone who helped us get our bill through Kentucky's House of Representatives. Words cannot express our appreciation for the hundreds of citizens, who supported us, the organizations, and the elected officials on both sides of the political fence who joined in to uphold the rights of Kentuckians over corporations. Democrats like James Kay, Jullian Carroll and Lt. Gubernatorial candidate Sannie Overly, John Tilley, and Republicans Jimmy Higdon, and David Floyd collectively worked many hours to support the rights of Kentucky citizens over private corporations not in public service.

What may not be widely known is that while our bill was being informally discussed by senate members, it was suggested that we could get it called for a vote if we compromised. Specifically, if we were to allow language to be added that would give eminent domain rights for gas gathering lines (primarily in eastern and western parts of the state) we could get the bill voted on and possibly even passed.  Those of us involved in that discussion realized immediately that if we agreed to this compromise, we would be throwing western Kentucky farmers and eastern Kentucky families under the legislative bus to save ourselves. That was a compromise we were not willing to make.

At that point, our group discussed the situation with our legal counsel and decided formally that it was time to take the matter to the court system in search for justice for all Kentuckians. Around February and March of 2014, a group of home owners and farmers directly affected by the pipeline, with the assistance of attorney Tom Fitzgerald of the Kentucky Resources Council, formed a non-profit organization to take legal action against the Bluegrass Pipeline by filing suit in Frankfort.

In March of 2014, Franklin County Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd granted a summary judgment in favor of our group, Kentuckians United to Restrain Eminent Domain (KURED).  The judge stated that Bluegrass Pipeline cannot even suggest to landowners that it has eminent domain power. "Landowners ... are entitled to know that the law does not support Bluegrass' assertion of the power of eminent domain." 

Shortly thereafter, the Bluegrass Pipeline announced that the project is "ahead of its time" and suspended capital spending due to "an insufficient level of firm customer commitments to ship products on the pipeline." Several in our group are of the opinion that the court's decision impacted the markets and the company's decision.

Bluegrass Pipeline representatives had repeatedly stated in public forums that they did not want to use eminent domain against Kentuckians. However, in July of 2014, attorneys representing Bluegrass Pipeline appealed Judge Phillip Shepherd's decision, clearly hoping to win the right to do so.

On May 22, 2015, the Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed the Franklin County Circuit Court decision that Bluegrass Pipeline LLC did not have the power of eminent domain, since it was not a utility regulated by the Public Service Commission (PSC). The unanimous 3-0 decision will impact not only the Bluegrass and Kinder-Morgan "repurposing" projects, but will also prevent Kentucky oil and gas producers from using the threat of eminent domain to site gathering lines and wells. Only the regulated natural gas utilities can invoke the power under the court's decision. Many thanks to Tom FitzGerald and KURED, and all the citizens, non-profit groups, and elected officials who have stood up for our rights!

We do not yet know where this legal battle will end, but through the generous support of the Kentucky Resources Council and its supporters, we are prepared to take the matter all the way to the US Supreme Court if necessary.

Now, that was a long answer to a seemingly simple question. The second question, why I am no longer updating this page.... Although I'm not regularly here providing information, rest assured, I am actively working on this and related issues. Many of our group have moved their focus to another pipeline project, and you can keep up with their activities on the Facebook community page.

I can't begin to count the hours I put into the Bluegrass Pipeline issue. Don't get me wrong. I would do it all again in a heartbeat, and I will stay involved in the legal battle until the issue is resolved. What I came to realize in this process, however, is that there will always be another pipeline or another fracking operation, or some other such thing coming down the pike. This pipeline battle taught me that as long as there are individuals and families among us who are economically vulnerable, we will have vulnerabilities in our communities as a whole.  Communities that do not work together to ensure sustainability and economic resilience of its members will always be vulnerable to this sort of exploitation. For that reason, I have begun working with a group of other like-minded women in our area to promote the legalization of industrial hemp.

Why hemp? (You might ask....) Industrial hemp, not to be confused with marijuana, is a versatile agricultural crop that was once Kentucky's largest agribusiness.  It's true!   Hemp can be used for many things ranging from medicinal oils to fiber for building and clothing to biofuels and plant-based plastic. With many Kentucky farmers still reeling from the collapse of tobacco, hemp is an opportunity to restore land values and promote financial stability in many parts of the state. It is a movement beyond poetic justice when one considers that hemp has the potential to substantially reduce our dependence on fossil fuels AND stimulate the economy. We already know that coal and gas resources in the state are dwindling to the point that extreme measures such as fracking are the only way to extract them. Why not invest in infrastructure that supports a green, sustainable, renewable alternative like hemp? Want to get involved or just keep up with the latest hemp news in Kentucky? Join the growing group of followers of the North Woodford Industrial Hemp Initiative page on Facebook.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

New "Fast-track" LNG Export Rules - It Ain't About U.S.

First off, keep in mind that Exxon's total US income tax bill - federal, state and local for 2009 was ($46,000,000) That's right, Exxon ended up 2009 with essentially a tax refund of $46 million for income taxes.  It all is explained in this CNN article.  Left of center publication, Mother Jones, has its own take on Exxon's tax position. 
And we learn here that Exxon is AGAIN a big winner with these new LNG export rules as described below.  

"....Houston-based Cheniere Energy and Exxon are two big winners under the new rules.
Cheniere will add liquefaction capacity to its Sabine Pass terminal that is now being built in Louisiana.
The expansion proposal already received the required Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) permits. The proposal was facing up to a two year wait for its Energy Department review, Fuel Fix said.
The new regulations mean that the project is now ready for final action by the Energy Department.
Exxon Mobil’s Golden Pass project in southeast Texas is also on the fast track for approval. The project was far into its FERC review but behind other projects in the Energy Department’s line....."

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration’s plan for shaking up the way it vets proposals to export natural gas had the curious effect of winning praise from both a fierce critic and a fan of those foreign sales.
The Energy Department was able to unite export foe Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and advocate Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., by devising a new approach that appears to accelerate the review process overall, even though it extends the time benefits to just a few well-heeled players.  Read more.

Foreign Interests Fueling the Attack on Kentucky Property Rights

In this article from the US Energy Information Administration, we find data on how our country's natural gas serves a small, but growing, portion of China’s total energy demand. 

Why is this relevant to those of us fighting pipelines through Kentucky?  It simply shows how foreign demand is adding to the push for natural gas development in the US.  And why we have our work cut-out for us in this "crossroads" state, Kentucky.  This is problematic for a number of reasons:

1.  Increased demand abroad actually weakens US energy independence.
2.  The influx of foreign dollars could easily increase the lobbying budgets of gas companies.
3.  Increased lobbying increases the likelihood that some of "our" government officials --yes, the ones we support through our taxes and votes--may support legislation making it easier for fossil fuel industries seize your property rights through eminent domain abuse.


"....In 2013, China imported nearly 1.8 Tcf of LNG (trillion cubic feet) and pipeline gas to fill the growing gap between supply and demand. Imported natural gas met 32% of China's demand in 2013, up from 2% in 2006. China is swiftly developing its LNG import capacity in the urban coastal areas and currently has 10 major regasification terminals with 1.7 Tcf/y of capacity. In 2012, China rose to become the third-largest LNG importer in the world, after Japan and South Korea, and in 2013, the country imported 870 billion cubic feet (Bcf) of LNG. Estimates for the first half of 2014 show LNG imports growing at faster levels than in previous years....."

This growing international demand is another reason why it appears that we are stuck with the dangers of fracking for awhile.  Unless, of course, courageous political leaders step forward and appropriately regulate the industry. 
As an aside, here is one thing that I think needs to be addressed in our national discussion about energy options.  Excerpt from the linked article above:

"...China relies heavily on domestic coal (and to a lesser extent oil) to meet rising energy consumption. To reduce air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions, the Chinese government is attempting to replace some of the country's coal and oil use with natural gas...."

Is replacing coal and oil with natural gas as an energy source really the panacea that some claim?  Here is a headline and article from the Guardian from last year that makes this issue less clear than the USEIA implies:

Methane leaks could negate climate benefits of US natural gas boom: report

Reduction in carbon emissions triggered by America's shift from coal to gas is being offset by a sharp rise in methane
So, what IS the answer?  Two words: conservation and renewables.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

From the "What Are They Thinking?" Files...

Cheryl LaFleur appointed head of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

The president's first choice, a renewable energy advocate, withdrew his name from consideration because of stalled confirmation. The second choice, a gas and electric industry insider, had NO trouble getting confirmed. Read on....

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Guarded Optimism Surrounds the Quiet Demise of the Bluegrass Pipeline

Guarded optimism surrounds a July 30, 2014 BusinessWire press release from the Williams Company that classifies the Bluegrass Pipeline as "abandoned." 

But like a dormant volcano, the fracking industry and its infrastructure support are not likely to go away anytime soon; especially with the government using our tax dollars and public resources to promote the all-powerful financial behemoth that controls much of our country's decision-making.

The Williams Company's press release comes on the heels of a recent announcement from the White House of a new "opportunity" in the form of private funding and investment in so-called "rural-infrastructure."

"WASHINGTON - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and CoBank CEO Robert Engel are announcing $10 billion in private funding to invest in rural infrastructure projects across the country.

The announcement is a part of a two-day "Rural Opportunity Investment Conference" that began Wednesday in Washington, D.C., which aims to bring together investment firms, government officials, and business leaders to promote investment in rural communities. Vilsack said the $10 billion fund will not only provide jobs to rural areas, but it will also be a catalyst for further private investments in infrastructure projects nation-wide."  Read more from CBS news.

As we are aware, the devil is often in the details, and on such details, the CBS article is largely silent. Now would be a very good time for farmers to get on board with the decision-making in this process to ensure that whatever infrastructure is supported is sustainable, both economically and environmentally and that it promotes long-term benefits for citizens.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Bluegrass Pipeline Teach-In Tomorrow at the Kentucky Heartwood Festival

Bluegrass Pipeline Teach In
3:00 - 4:00 pm in the lower festival area

Attendees for this event do not have to pay entry fee to the festival if they are attending this event only.  This meeting is specifically designed for Millville area residents and others who want to learn more about the natural gas liquids pipeline proposed to run through this community.  Come find out what the company’s latest announcement means and what to expect with this pipeline.  FYI, if you come to the festival only for the pipeline meeting, you do not have to pay the entry fee.  For more information, check out the Heartwood Festival website.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

First Be Aware, then Be Angry, and then Be Active

The booklet Shalefield Stories is a compilation of personal testimonies of Americans trying to survive amid the fracking industry's mad dash for cash.  Their stories are raw and painful.  When you read it, you'll be angry.  We hope their stories will inspire you to act by contacting representatives at all levels and expressing your concerns.  The home you save may be your own.  Download a copy of Shalefield Stories. Learn more about Friends of the Harmed.

Help Parker County TX, Dimock PA, and Pavillion WY Get

E-blast Call to Action Now Through Sunday April 11!

Water supplies in Parker County TX, Dimock PA, and Pavillion WY are contaminated after fracking occurred in their city limits. The EPA come in and give them glimmer of hope but then dropped the investigation. Citizens are fighting back and need your help. Tell Administrator McCarthy to reopen the investigations. Feel free to call once, or twice, even three times. Let’s keep those phones ringing off the hook!  To make it easy, we have a quick script to use if you choose (See Below:)

Please Call Toll Free: 888-661-3342

Leave your message.  Something like this:  "Hi, My name is _____, and I'm calling to ask EPA Administrator McCarthy to reopen the investigations in Parker County TX, Dimock PA, and Pavillion WY. I'm saddened that the EPA has chosen to abandon these communities, and not protect them from the Oil and Gas industry. Your own scientists have said that their water was possibly contaminated by Fracking, yet you continue to do nothing. Please reopen the investigations!"

Williams Company "Incidents" Just Keep Coming Don't They?

The would-be builders of the Bluegrass hazardous liquids pipeline just seem to keep having "incident" after "incident."  Some make the news, but it is possible that many more don't.  Why?  The answer may surprise you:

"Unless somebody dies or is injured, it’s not a reportable incident, says the federal agency in charge of investigating fracked methane pipeline safety."  Read more.

Further, "unless there was a loss of more than $50,000 in product, it’s not even a reportable incident, just an “abnormal operating condition,” according to what PHMSA said about Suavie Island, Oregon."  Read more.

This is especially troubling when we know that existing technology is far from perfect and detects only 5% of the nation's pipeline spills
and that members of the public or first responders were more likely to detect leaks than the "state of the art" detection equipment used by pipeline companies.

We've written about the company's problematic history, and problems continue, seemingly without significant penalty:

  • Williams fire and explosion near Plymouth, WA 2014-03-31 - A two-mile evacuation ratio around a Williams fracked methane facility in Oregon, and once again a state agency investigates while federal PHMSA does nothing, same near Plymouth, WA, as on Sauvie Island, OR. 
  • Williams Oak Grove explosion in Marshall County, WV 2014-04-05 - In which Williams admits [the] subsidence can cause a gas pipeline explosion. So does an even larger (36-inch vs. 12-inch) pipeline through the fragile karst sinkhole-prone limestone of the Floridan Aquifer for the Sabal Trail pipeline connected to Williams’ Transco sound like a good idea? Especially considering pipeline companies aren’t held accountable for the expense of their explosions, leaving local and state governments to pick up the tab?
  • Williams explosion and fire, Opal, WY 2014-04-23 - Fourth major incident this year for Williams, this time in Wyoming. Yet again locals and their local and state governments were left to pick up the tab, and the cause is still “under investigation.” 

Yes, We Can Stop the Fracking Madness: Dryden Fights Back

"The industry kept saying: 'We have the power; you have none. We are coming. Get out of the way or leave,'" says Joanne Cipolla-Dennis, recalling what happened when the oil and gas industry came to her town of Dryden, NY.

But Joanne and her neighbors came up with a plan. Watch the true story of people who discovered their shared strength and turned the tables on a powerful industry.

As fracking bears down on 31 states across the country, this story offers hope and important lessons for communities trying to protect themselves.

Please help us spread the word from coast to coast—and get people the information they need to win the fight against fracking.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Not to be Missed! Join us for the Potluck in the Path

Pipeline Delayed - Now What?

I was out of state last week when I heard the news about the Bluegrass Pipeline being indefinitely delayed.  Naturally, it was an exciting day for our group with emails flying back and forth, texts, and speculation as to what it all meant.  Most of us feel a sense of cautious optimism.  However, we also feel that it is most important to continue our efforts to lobby for citizens' land rights through strengthening Kentucky's eminent domain laws.

While we are naturally pleased that our families and homes will be safe for the next couple of years, we also know the battle is far from over.  We intend to focus our efforts on eminent domain and building meaningful, sustainable communities with the resilience to resist the spread of fracking.

We will continue to move forward with these initiatives and invite you to stay with us as we plan and implement strategies across the state.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Senate Action Still Possible on Eminent Domain Bill

To recap our recent push to protect Kentucky land rights:  There are several bills to clarify that private companies with projects that provide no public use or no public service should not have the power to condemn property. House Bill 31 focused on restricting eminent domain for natural gas liquids projects, such as the proposed Bluegrass Hazardous Liquids Pipeline, and was approved by the House 75-16 on March 21.

But again, Senate leaders are refusing to act. They have not even bothered to assign HB 31 to a committee, after ignoring an even better bill, Senate Bill 14, that has been before the Senate since January 7.

There have been several attempts in the Senate to attach the language of SB 14 or HB 31 as amendments to other legislation. So far, Senate leaders have refused to allow consideration of those bills or amendments. But it is still possible they could do so before the Senate adjourns.

ACTION: Please contact Senate leadership and your own senator with this message: “The law needs clarification to protect landowners from abuse of eminent domain by private companies. Please allow a vote on Senator Higdon’s 'utilities only' amendment.”

Contact senators by using the Legislative Message Line at 800-372-7181. It will open at 7 a.m. on Monday. You can find legislators' email at HERE.

If you’re on social media, consider leaving polite messages for @kysengop, @damon_thayer and @kysenatepres urging Senate Republican leaders to act on Eminent Domain legislation.

If you would like to send a bulk email to reps and senators, you can use this list.  Simply copy and paste into your email's "to" box.  Please check to make sure your own reps are included...just in case we missed one!  Here is an example message you may want to consider as a model: 

“The law needs clarification to protect landowners from abuse of eminent domain by private companies. Please allow a vote on Senator Higdon’s 'utilities only' amendment.”

 dbp91044 <>,,,
 "Buford, Tom (State Sen.) (LRC)" <>,
 "Carpenter, Jared (State Sen.) (LRC)" <>,,,,,,,,,,
 "Higdon, Jimmy (State Sen.) (LRC)" <>,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
 "Combs, Leslie (State Rep.) (LRC)" <>,,,,,,,,,
 "Embry, CB (State Rep.) (LRC)" <>,,,,,,,
 "Greer, Jeff (State Rep.) (LRC)" <>,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
 "Marzian, Mary Lou (State Rep.) (LRC)" <>,,,,,,,
 "Mills, Terry (State Rep.) (LRC)" <>,,,,,,,,,
 "Quarles, Ryan (State Rep.) (LRC)" <>,,,
 "Richards, Jody (State Rep.) (LRC)" <>,,,,,,,,,
 "Sinnette, Kevin (State Rep.) (LRC)" <>,
 "Smart, Rita H. (State Rep.) (LRC)" <>,,,,,,,
 "Tilley, John (State Rep.) (LRC)" <>,,,,,,,
 "Westrom, Susan (State Rep.) (LRC)" <>,,,
 "York, Jill (State Rep.) (LRC)" <>

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Bluegrass Hazardous Liquids Pipeline Withdraws Corps Application

One of our contributors reported today that the Bluegrass hazardous liquids pipeline has withdrawn its application to the US Army Corps of Engineers.  We would like to thank all of you for your calls and letters and for signing our petition on calling on the Corps to require a comprehensive environmental impact statement and to deny a blanket national permit to the pipeline project.

We understand that historically, the Corps rarely rejects applications outright.  Alternately, we have heard that the Corps prefers to encourage applicants to withdraw applications that do not meet their standards.  In most cases, applicants revise their applications and resubmit in the future.

We speculate that may could have occurred for two reasons. First, it is possible that the Corps found the application to be incomplete (or simply not meeting the requirements of the Nationwide Permit). Second, it is also possible that the company withdrew the application to decrease the pipeline's exposure. This seems possible because some landowners report having been told by representatives that the pipeline announced a delay to "get people off their backs."

While this makes us smile, we caution that this is no time to let down our guard. We must continue to carefully watch what is going on in our neighborhoods, in state government, county fiscal courts, and planning and zoning commissions. As noted in today's thought for the day, "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty; power is ever stealing from the many to give to the few." As we've grown fond of saying, "back to work."

As you will recall, the Corps has authority over all of the waterway crossings the pipeline would traverse.  The proposed pipeline builders are required to submit an application for permission to cross.  In Kentucky alone, that would involve more than 700 crossings.  Our sources have obtained copies of the application documents for your research: