Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

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March 26, 2014

Judge: Companies can’t use eminent domain for pipeline project

FRANKFORT — Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd on Tuesday ruled that companies building a natural gas liquids pipeline across parts of Kentucky cannot invoke eminent domain to force private property owners to provide easements.

In an 18-page order, Shepherd wrote that it would require “an undeniably clear mandate from the legislature” before the state’s power of eminent domain can be granted to a private corporation. (Eminent domain allows the government to take private property for a public use if it provides just compensation to the owner.)

Williams Company and Boardwalk Partners want to connect parts of an existing natural gas pipeline to new construction that would transport natural gas liquids (NGLs) across the state from gas fields in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

NGLs are by-products of natural gas such as ethane, propane, and butane. Critics of the proposed pipeline maintain that unlike natural gas, if the NGLs were to leak they would drain into the ground and permanently pollute underground water supplies.

The company has been negotiating with property owners for easements and has said it hopes to secure all the necessary easements to build the pipeline, but it has also maintained it has the right of eminent domain if some property owners won’t sell.

Critics and opponents of the pipeline have claimed in some instances the companies have used the threat of eminent domain to pressure property owners into granting the easement and a group of property owners calling themselves Kentuckians United to Restrain Eminent Domain sued in Franklin Circuit Court last year.

Shepherd said the companies can continue to negotiate with private property owners but they can neither invoke eminent domain or threaten to do so, “or intimidate, or even to suggest to landowners who have no desire to sell” that the Bluegrass Pipeline Company can take their property without their consent.

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