Correction: Kentucky Legislature-Eminent Domain

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 2, 2014 at 4:24 pm •  Published: January 2, 2014

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — In a story Dec. 31 about possible eminent domain legislation in the 2014 Kentucky General Assembly, The Associated Press reported erroneously that state Rep. John Tilley is from Madisonville. He is from Hopkinsville.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Lawmakers to take another crack at eminent domain

Lawmakers consider tightening eminent domain law so pipeline company can't take property


Associated Press

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A company that wants to build a pipeline to pump natural gas liquids across Kentucky wouldn't be able to condemn private property through the state's eminent domain law if some leading lawmakers have their way.

The complicated law has been on the minds of many activists and landowners who live in the proposed path of the Bluegrass Pipeline, which would carry natural gas liquids to the Gulf of Mexico from the northeast.

The pipeline's builders, Oklahoma-based Williams Co. and Texas-based Boardwalk Pipeline Partners, have repeatedly declared they have the option to use the eminent domain process to secure right of way for the pipeline. The public outcry has made the issue potentially one of the biggest lawmakers will face in a legislative session that begins on Jan. 7.

Opponents contend the private companies are not utilities and therefore have no right to use the eminent domain process to condemn property.

The pipeline, which will stretch along a 500-mile route that includes Ohio and Pennsylvania, will carry the liquids that can be used in the manufacturing of a variety of products, including plastics, medical supplies, heating fuel, even carpet.

Penny Greathouse, a farmer whose land is in the proposed pathway, said she is most concerned about a pipeline rupture on her and her husband's 700-acre cattle farm along the border of Franklin and Scott counties.

"I'm worried about a leak and what it might do, and what are we going to do as far farming while they're trying to clean it up," she said.

Greathouse and a group of landowners have filed a lawsuit in Franklin County asking the court to clarify if pipeline builders would have the right to condemn private land for their own uses.

But the General Assembly could settle the issue before that case winds its way through the courts.

"Along the planned route, there are several legislators from both parties with enough clout to pull a bill together and pass it into law," said state Rep. David Floyd, R-Bardstown, one of the lawmakers working on legislation.

Floyd intends to sponsor a bill. So does state Sen. Jimmy Higdon, the Lebanon Republican who chairs the Committee on Veterans Affairs and Public Protection. And state Rep. John Tilley, a Hopkinsville Democrat who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, also is considering similar legislation.

In general terms, Kentucky law allows municipalities and corporations the right to seize land to make way for utilities, railroads, telephone lines and roads meant for public use. But it is unclear whether a privately-owned pipeline carrying materials not meant for use or consumption inside Kentucky could make use of the state's eminent domain law to condemn land along the proposed route.

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