Standing room-only crowd seeks answers about Bluegrass Pipeline - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Standing room-only crowd seeks answers about Bluegrass Pipeline

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Around 200 people attended the question-and-answer meeting with the pipeline's builders. Around 200 people attended the question-and-answer meeting with the pipeline's builders.
Company representatives said they hoped contractors would hire locally, but said they couldn't commit because the decision wasn't theirs. Company representatives said they hoped contractors would hire locally, but said they couldn't commit because the decision wasn't theirs.

GEORGETOWN, KY (WAVE) - The builders of the controversial Bluegrass Pipeline said they could not commit to avoiding eminent domain to build the line, although they reiterated that they didn't plan to condemn properties for their use.

The statement drew angry reactions from a standing-room crowd of about 200 people in Scott County at a question-and-answer meeting with the pipeline's builders.

"Eminent domain is a last, last resort," said Bill Lawson, director of corporate development for Williams Co., one of the pipeline's developers.

Williams Co. and Boardwalk Pipeline Partners are jointly proposing to build the line, which would run from Pennsylvania to Kentucky and connect with an existing pipeline to carry natural gas liquids to Louisiana.

The audience included about two dozen construction workers who supported the line because they wanted to help build it. Landowners concerned about eminent domain told the pipeline's builders to stay off their properties, and some predicted the issue is likely headed for court.

Company representatives on Thursday told residents in Scott County that they'd so far bought easements for 22 of 182 miles the pipeline would run in Kentucky.

The companies have purchased about 13 percent of the easements along the entire route, representatives said.

Building the line would create 1,500 temporary construction jobs and 32 permanent jobs in Kentucky, Lawson said.

Union workers came to the meeting wearing orange shirts, advocating that the companies hire local workers to build the line.

Company representatives said they hoped contractors would hire locally, but said they couldn't commit because the decision wasn't theirs.

The meeting was enough to convince Mark Isaacs of Laborers Local 189 in Lexington.

"(Jobs) are a huge benefit," he said. "A lot of people are working now but those jobs are going to end before the (pipeline) project starts, so they're concerned."

Landowners repeatedly asked about the company's plans to use eminent domain to buy land to build the pipeline and remained skeptical of the answers they received.

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway is monitoring the situation but won't be involved in any potential litigation because the matters are private, said Allison Martin, a spokeswoman.

The state could get involved if lawmakers are successful in passing a ban on the pipeline companies using eminent domain. At least two bills addressing the issue have been pre-filed at the statehouse for the 2014 session.

"We don't want to stand in the way of economic development," said Rep. David Floyd, R-Bardstown. "I defend any property owner's right to grant that easement if that's what they wish, but I must also protect the landowner who does not want to grand that easement."

The plan is to work with landowners and avoid strained relations and potential legal battles that could delay the pipeline's anticipated 2015 completion, Lawson said.

If the state passed such a ban, "we'll live by the rules," he said.

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