FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky House has passed legislation that would bar private natural gas liquid companies from using eminent domain laws to acquire property.
Companies such as the Bluegrass Pipeline project would be required to purchase land from consenting property owners before they can build on it.
Under current Kentucky law, oil and natural gas companies are given the use of eminent domain to claim easements for public service projects, but there is no specific language granting the same privilege to natural gas liquid companies.
Bill sponsor Rep. John Tilley, a Hopkinsville Democrat, said natural gas liquids do not provide a public service and don't qualify for eminent domain privilege.
Rep. David Floyd, R-Bardstown, is a co-sponsor of the legislation. He said the materials pumped through the pipeline are hazardous materials for which Kentuckians receive no financial or environmental benefit.
"It's like a colon that takes stuff and drops it down in Louisiana," he said. "Only it's not my products. It's somebody else's."
When critics of the bill countered that preventing the Bluegrass Pipeline project from using eminent domain to condemn a landowner's property could mean losing jobs, Floyd defended the measure.
"It does not impede any business process. It does not inhibit any jobs. The pipeline will proceed," said Floyd. "What we're trying to do is protect those private property owners, protect those private landowners from the big, multi-state, carpetbagging companies that want to come here and condemn their property."
Opposition to the measure was voiced by Democratic Rep. Jim Gooch, of Providence. Gooch said natural gas liquids are part of a new era of energy consumption, and that Kentucky should embrace new power sources. Gooch likened natural gas liquid development to the advent of the internet. He then urged lawmakers to remain open to the opportunities presented to the state by natural gas liquids.
"I believe that today we are on the verge of an energy revolution in this nation. And this bill, in a small way, is a part of whether we embrace that or fight it," said Gooch. "And I really believe that if we embrace this energy revolution that we can actually provide the jobs."
Rep. Gerald Watkins, D-Paducah, also rose in opposition to the measure, citing labor sector opposition.
"The Kentucky Building Construction Trades Council is opposed to this bill, representing thousands of workers in Kentucky. I have heard first-hand from five different business agents in my district, including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and Pipefitters and Teamsters, representing 5 or 6,000 workers." said Watkins. "They are highly opposed to this bill."
The measure passed the House of Representatives on a 75-16 vote on Friday.
It now moves to the Senate for consideration.
The legislation is House Bill 31.