Pipeline builders halting Kentucky project

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Associated Press

Posted on April 29, 2014 at 12:05 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Developers are halting a three-state underground pipeline project that drew intense opposition in Kentucky from residents, activists and even a group of nuns.

Williams Co. and Boardwalk Pipeline Partners said in a web posting Monday that they were not able to assemble a large enough customer base for the natural gas liquids that would be delivered by the proposed Bluegrass Pipeline. They suggested, however, that the project could be resurrected at a later date.

"We continue to pursue support for the project, but we are exercising capital discipline and not investing additional capital at this time. In short, Bluegrass Pipeline appears to be a project that's ahead of its time," the web posting said.

The companies said they are no longer seeking to acquire land for the project and offices that housed land acquisition teams have been closed.

Planners intended to install 500 miles of new pipeline through West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky. Kentucky's portion would have traveled about 180 miles through more than a dozen counties to connect with an existing line in Breckinridge County.

But opposition to the proposal was swift and widespread in Kentucky, coming from activists, residents near the planned route and even the Sisters of Loretto, a group of Catholic nuns in Marion County. Residents were upset over the pipeline backers' insistence that they would be able to use eminent domain laws to seize private land for the project.

Sister Ceciliana Skees, who lives at the Loretto Motherhouse in Nerinx, Ky., said the sisters cheered on Monday at lunch when they heard the news the pipeline plans were being shelved.

"We all clapped very loud and made a little noise," said Skees, who joined other protesters who traveled to Gov. Steve Beshear's office in November to hand over a petition with 36,000 signatures from people who oppose the pipeline. The pipeline's original estimated route traveled near the sisters' 780-acre property.

"I think the Williams Company was surprised that we organized like we did," Skees said.

The pipeline companies said in the web posting and an online Q&A that their decision was not based on local opposition or the eminent domain issue.

"Without firm agreements from customers, we could not justify continuing to spend capital on this project," it said. "If our discussions with customers lead to agreements to ship on the pipeline and it makes economic sense to pursue the project at a later date, we will."

The natural gas liquids, a byproduct of the refining process, are used to make plastics, medical supplies and carpet, among other products. The liquids contain flammable substances including propane, butane and ethane.

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