Frankfort, Ky. (WHAS11) -- It's the debate between property owners' rights versus economic development. A House Judiciary Committee postponed its decision Wednesday, Feb. 19, on whether to forward a bill that would provide more protection to private landowners.
The Bluegrass Pipeline will transport liquefied natural gas through 13 Kentucky counties, transporting the gas from Pennsylvania to the Gulf. But Kentucky residents in the affected areas say pipeline officials have threatened to use eminent domain to gain their property.
"A land rep first showed up at my house in March of last year, 2013, to tell me they were running a pipe through my property. I remember telling them I wasn't thrilled about the project. But he also threw in the pipeline was subject to eminent domain," Joe Boone, a Nelson County farmer, said.
One Kentucky resident after another sat before the committee Wednesday, pleading for the protection of their land in conjunction with the pipeline's construction; a plea backed by House Bill 31, sponsored by Chairman John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville.
"Whether we ought to grant the power of eminent domain to NGL's is another question and I think we can debate that," Tilley said.
While advocates of the Bluegrass Pipeline say it's the safest and most effective transportation of gas, residents in its path fear the loss of their land in the process.
"The stakes marking the center line (of the pipeline) cut our 120 acre property in half and crossed through springs and a sinkhole. If built there, it would put my mom and dad's home at risk," Amy Boone, a Nelson County native, said. “I'm here today because my family feels threatened by eminent domain."
"In Kentucky, when you consider property rights and how sacred they are to Kentuckians, it's a property rights issue," Tilley said.
If passed, a committee substitute for House Bill 31, would clarify Kentucky law so that natural gas liquids would not be considered an oil or gas product. This would mean the pipeline's owners; Williams Co. and Boardwalk Pipeline Partners could not seize property through eminent domain to build the pipeline.
HB 31 would not block the pipeline, but rather protect the rights of landowners. The debate will continue at the next scheduled hearing for the House Judiciary Committee.