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:

Thought for the Day

 Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty; power is ever stealing from the many to give to the few.
-Wendell Phillips

Although the legislative session is winding down without having passed our bill to protect Kentuckians from corporate eminent domain abuse, we have learned from this experience and are committed to watching and protecting citizens' rights.  We will not stop today, tomorrow, next year, or ever.  Greed never stops, and neither will we.

Fear Not - You Can Defend Yourself Against Condemnation - KRC will Help

If you have been concerned about possible condemnation of your home by the BG Hazardous Liquids Pipeline, please know that help is available at no cost to you.

Tom FitzGerald, of the Kentucky Resources Council said Bluegrass Pipeline officials would have a tough fight on their hands if they tried to condemn a landowner’s property through eminent domain to attain easement rights in his address at a Rotary Club meeting in Elizabethtown.

FitzGerald’s optimism at the thought of such a legal battle has been fostered by a Franklin Circuit Court decision that sided with pipeline opponents who say eminent domain powers are not available to the natural gas liquids pipeline.

“This is not a utility,” he said.

Some opponents also have claimed there will be no noticeable benefits for Kentucky from the pipeline because the natural gas liquids produced likely will be exported.

The pipeline, a partnership between Oklahoma pipeline company Williams and Boardwalk Pipeline Partners of Houston, is being constructed from gas-producing fields from the Marcellus and Utica shales in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, south through Kentucky as it heads to the Gulf Coast.
The Kentucky route winds through more than a dozen counties, including Hardin, and would connect to an existing gas line in Hardinsburg.

The Bluegrass Pipeline has appealed the ruling, but the court decision would loom over any lawsuit filed until the case is settled, FitzGerald said. The Attorney General’s office, state Energy and Environment Cabinet and some commonwealth’s and county attorneys around the state have said they do not believe the pipeline has the authority to use eminent domain.

“They would have an uphill battle,” FitzGerald said.

Should anyone be sued by the pipeline under eminent domain, FitzGerald said his agency would defend them in court to stave off attorney fees for homeowners who want to be left alone.

The Kentucky Resources Council is a non-profit organization that has worked to protect Kentuckians involved in environmental disputes and does so without charge.  If the pipeline company attempts to condemn your property, please contact Tom Fitzgerald at the Kentucky Resources Council at

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Saviors and Soundrels - Who Did What While You Weren't Looking

Many have written to ask for public disclosure of the representatives who did and did not support our efforts to protect Kentucky families from corporate eminent domain abuse.  Ask, and you shall receive.  Here is the list of those who voted for and against our bill.  Now would be a really good time to ally with candidates who may run against the people who did not support you or the Constitutions of our state and nation.  Other things you might consider:
  • Boycotting any businesses owned by reps who did not support us.
  • Volunteering for their opposition.
  • Donating to opposing campaigns.
  • Finding and growing your own leadership in your areas.
  • Continue to call and write these people throughout the year (in their offices) to let them know how you feel about them abandoning our families and not doing their jobs.
  • Sharing the list with friends, family, and other contacts to ask that they do the same.

Spalding University Lecture to Address Bluegrass Pipeline

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (March 31, 2014) – Spalding University’s School of Liberal Studies presents the 2014 Keenan Lecture “The Bluegrass Pipeline:  Working for Justice” featuring Tom FitzGerald (Kentucky Resources Council), Sr. Kathy Wright (Sisters of Loretto) and Cara Cooper (Kentucky Student Environmental Action Coalition) at 7 p.m. on April 10 in the Egan Leadership Center Lectorium (901 S. Fourth St.). The event is free and open to the public.

Fitzgerald, Wright and Cooper will address the environmental effects of the proposed Bluegrass Pipeline, which would transport natural gas liquids from Pennsylvania and West Virginia to the Gulf of Mexico, and will talk about the rights of the residents who live along the pipeline. Dr. Pattie Dillon, chair of the School of Liberal Studies, says that this year’s Keenan lecture interconnects religion with politics and environmental justice.

“We chose the Bluegrass Pipeline as the topic for this year’s lecture because it ties to the School of Liberal Studies’ theme this year—the natural environment—and because it links to the university’s mission of social justice and responding to the needs of the times in terms of the environment and the promotion of peace and justice,” Dillon says.

Kentucky counties directly impacted by the Bluegrass Pipeline include Bracken, Pendleton, Grant, Harrison, Scott, Owen, Franklin, Woodford, Anderson, Nelson, LaRue, Hardin and Breckinridge. But Wright says that this is an issue that impacts a much wider audience.

“Because of Kentucky's geography, any leaks or problems with the Bluegrass Pipeline offer the possibility of leaking toxic natural gas liquids into the water table or aquifer. Once these liquids have leaked into the ground or into nearby creeks or streams, they can travel through the waterways and potentially contaminate a much larger water supply,” says Sr. Kathy Wright. “In addition, questions of eminent domain and its use by private companies ‘passing through’ Kentucky can set a precedent that could impact every landowner and resident in the state.”

The Keenan Lecture was established in 1982 to honor the memory of Dr. Mary Emily Keenan, S.C.N. Her career in the fields of religious studies and classical languages was distinguished by fifty years of teaching at Spalding University, and for twenty of those years, she served as chair of the religious studies department.

“Institutions of higher education have always served as a place to have healthy conversations about controversial issues because of the focus on education and discovering new knowledge,” says Cooper. “Furthermore, the Keenan Lecture series focuses on ethical issues of broad social and cultural significance.”

What Now? Just Say No, and Stay Tuned

Some of you have contacted us asking what to do next.  While we cannot give you legal advise, we can say that the matter is in court, and we are prepared to do whatever it takes to win.  We hear the Supreme Court is a nice place to visit.  We have already one our lawsuit in Franklin County.  The company has appealed the decision, and if we win at that level, the decision will be binding up on the entire state.  Regardless, I see a long, drawn out battle ahead.  And that's okay with us.  It is a battle worth fighting.  If you are threatened with condemnation, and you do not want to grant an easement, please contact us.  We can help.  Anyone can join Kentuckians United for the Restriction of Eminent Domain, and it is free.  You are not alone - United We Stand.

Stay in touch with us.  We will regularly update the website and will keep you posted on our initiatives as they progress.  Please feel free to contact us at any time using the contact box at the right of this page.  You may also contact the Kentucky Resources Council for assistance, as we are all working together.

It Would Be Funny if It Weren't True

Pipeline Battle Will Continue Despite Legislative Stall Tactics

It appears condemnation issues related to a natural gas liquids pipeline project in Kentucky will be left up to the judicial system.  For the past year, we have been seeking legislative clarification of eminent domain law.  One of the many champions of our cause, Sen. Jimmy Higdon, gave it another try on Monday.  After the two bills he attached a floor amendment to last week were not been moved to the Senate floor, Monday he filed his "utilities only" amendment as a floor amendment to HB 355, which was being considered on the Senate floor. He asked for a suspension of the rules because he was not able to give 24-hour notice.

Sen. Damon Thayer spoke against the request to suspend the rules and asked the chair Sen. Robert Stivers to rule the motion out of order. Stivers seemed to hesitate and asked Higdon to repeat his request, and then Thayer repeated his objection. Stivers ruled the motion out of order.  So, essentially, Thayer and Stivers seem to believe that because they did not receive 24 hour notice, that they should not act on this legislation.  Never mind that thousands of people have been working diligently on this for about a year writing letters, holding public meetings, multiple counties have passed resolutions, television news programs, websites, and newspapers have run many stories on the issue, national news picked up the story....two men stood in the way.  This calls for an investigation I think.  It would be nice to know exactly how much they were paid off to throw our state under the bus.

Thayer and Stivers will likely argue that they acted properly. The reality is if they wanted the eminent domain amendment to receive a vote, they were given an easy chance today to allow it.  Stivers has been quoted as saying that the matter should be resolved in the court system.

To that, I simply say I smell methane.  Why are we paying for a legislature if they choose not to do their jobs?  Do they really not see that by clarifying legislation that they would be actually acting in the interests of Kentuckians (doing their jobs)?  How dare we ask the legislators to (gasp!) legislate.

In a supreme display of irony, while these Kentucky "public servants" blocked important eminent domain legislation that would protect families from the Bluegrasss pipeline, the Williams Company experienced yet another explosion at one of their facilities in Washington state on Monday.  Personally, I wouldn't trust this company to build an outhouse, much less run a hazardous liquids pipeline through my front yard.

Further, the Williams Company has had even more pipeline problems in Oregon -  on several recent occasions the company was forced to "emergency release" natural gas because of malfunctioning equipment.
".....Williams officials say they also plan to attend a community association meeting Thursday to answer questions and allay concerns after repeated venting from a pressure relief valve that prompted a neighborhood evacuation, school and road closures, and health and safety worries among residents.

Despite three gas releases in two months, no one from the company has proactively contacted residents to address their questions, said Jenny Malone, who lives with her four kids about a half mile from the transfer station. " Not a letter. Not an email. Not a phone call." 

Moreover, the federal regulator responsible for overseeing Williams' operations, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, has not visited the site or inspected the malfunctioning equipment. The agency considers the problems an "abnormal operating condition," not a reportable incident involving a death or injury or the loss of more than $50,000 in product.

"We didn't have anyone who could get out there right away to do some groundwork at the Williams facility to see what's going on there," said Damon Hill, a spokesman for PHMSA, which has 135 inspectors covering 2.6 million miles of pipeline...."

For the record, that is almost 20,000 miles for each PHMSA inspector.  Here is a link to PHMSA's library.

A Mini Documentary on the National Corvette Museum Sinkhole

Oh the carnage...

Or...see? This is perfectly safe....Let's put an NGL pipeline through here.  Better yet, we'll get these people to build it: