FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Landowners from across Kentucky testified to a House committee Wednesday that they have been harassed by companies involved in the Bluegrass Pipeline project and been threatened that the state's eminent domain laws would be used to seize their land if they refuse to sell.
The committee then passed legislation that would bar private natural gas liquid companies from using eminent domain laws to acquire property.
House committee chair Rep. John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville is the bill's sponsor.
"If the state or anyone else is to condemn private property," Tilley said, "that should be for public use which our constitution clearly states and we as a legislature have clearly confirmed in subsequent years."
Tilley added that although the bill cleared the committee by a wide margin, he anticipates strong amendments to be attached to it in the House.
Also in attendance was Tom FitzGerald of the Kentucky Resources Council. FitzGerald said that Kentucky isn't alone in clarifying its eminent domain laws. He cited recent Texas statutes which distinguish natural gas liquids from utilities which also use eminent domain laws.
Gov. Steve Beshear has already encouraged the legislature to pass the bill.
"Although we have been advised that existing law does not permit companies to use eminent domain for private projects like the Bluegrass Pipeline, I would welcome legislation that will clarify and codify that point," Beshear said in a statement last week.
The Bluegrass Pipeline public relations team, in a statement after the bill's passage, maintained that singling out natural gas liquid pipelines for exclusion from eminent domain laws is unnecessary.
When asked about support for the bill in the Kentucky House of Representatives, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said "I don't know how many votes it'll get, but it'll get mine."
The bill passed out of the committee on Wednesday with an 11-1 vote, and now moves to the full Kentucky House for consideration.
The legislation is House Bill 31.