By Ben Kleppinger
Published 12:51 pm Saturday, February 24, 2018
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has denied a request for a stay in a case concerning a natural gas pipeline that runs through Boyle County.
FERC, the federal agency charged with regulating all natural gas pipelines in the country, ruled last year that energy company Kinder Morgan could stop using Tennessee Gas Pipeline No. 1 for natural gas, in effect giving the go-ahead for a plan to use the pipeline for “natural gas liquids” (NGLs), a collection of byproducts from fracking in the northeast. A trio of environmental groups filed a motion for rehearing in the case and asked for a stay of FERC’s order. The stay would have prevented Kinder Morgan from pursuing its plan until FERC decides whether to rehear the case. But FERC denied the stay in an order filed Tuesday, finding that “justice does not require a stay and therefore (FERC) denies the motion for stay.” However, the order specifically notes that FERC has not ruled yet on whether it will rehear the case.
“In order to support a stay, the (environmental groups) must substantiate that irreparable injury is ‘likely’ to occur. The injury must be both certain and great and it must be actual and not theoretical,” the order reads. “Bare allegations of what is likely to occur do not suffice.”
The three groups are Allegheny Defense Project, a group based in Pennsylvania; and two Kentucky-based organizations — Kentucky Resources Council and Kentucky Heartwood. In court documents, they are often referred to simply as “Allegheny.”
“Allegheny makes little effort to substantiate a claim of irreparable injury” in its motion for a stay, the FERC order argues. “Allegheny states that they have ‘members who live, work and recreate along the proposed pipeline route’ and who have ‘been active in community meetings and protests against the pipeline.’ But Allegheny has failed to provide specific information regarding the purported injury inflicted upon their members by the Tennessee Abandonment and Capacity Restoration Project.”
FERC’s denial quotes Allegheny’s original filing, which argued that the pipeline project would involve “direct surface and subsurface impacts, and will alter the landscape.”
“These generalized claims of environmental harm do not constitute sufficient evidence of irreparable harm that would justify a stay,” the order reads. “In support of its claim of irreparable harm, Allegheny also points to the ‘distinct possibility of leakage and of catastrophic failure’ of the pipeline after it is converted from gas vapor to gas liquids service. But the September 2017 order does not authorize any subsequent use of the pipeline. As we explained, the (FERC’s) ‘jurisdiction over the subject pipeline ends once it is abandoned in accordance with the conditions’ specified in the order.”
That argument — that approving abandonment of the line for natural gas purposes can be considered separately from the environmental impacts of using the pipeline for NGLs — is what Allegheny took issue with in its initial filing.
Allegheny filed its “request for rehearing and motion for stay of order” with FERC on Oct. 30. The document lays out Allegheny’s arguments that FERC misinterpreted the law and took the pipeline industry’s side over residents’ in its Sept. 29 order allowing “abandonment” of Tennessee Gas Pipeline No. 1.
“(FERC) improperly segmented and limited its review of the impacts of the conversion … thus dodging a complete, rigorous environmental study of the total project impacts,” the Allegheny filing argued. “… (FERC’s) efforts to facilitate (Kinder Morgan’s) repurposing of this natural gas line while limiting its scope of environmental review is precisely why Justice Douglas cautioned that federal agencies ‘are notoriously under the control of the powerful interests who manipulate them through advisory committees, or friendly working relations, or who have that natural affinity with the agency which in time develops between the regulator and the regulated. Just as Justice Douglas used the example of the former Interstate Commerce Commission being overly sympathetic ‘to take the business and railroad view of things,’ so too is the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission overly sympathetic ‘to take the business and (natural gas) view of things.'”
FERC’s denial of the stay doesn’t buy into Allegheny’s argument.
“Where, as here, a party seeking a stay is unable to establish that it will suffer irreparable harm absent a stay, the commission need not examine other factors,” FERC stated in the denial.
Opponents of the pipeline plan argue that NGLs are more explosive, more toxic and much heavier than natural gas; that Pipeline No. 1 was not built to handle the added load or flow in the opposite direction; and that a leak or explosion could be devastating to local environments and economies along the path of the pipeline.
Kelly McKinney/ email@example.com
Feb 14, 2018
For years now, Kentucky counties and other municipalities, as well as various area environmental groups, have spoken up against an effort by energy infrastructure company Kinder Morgan to repurpose a natural gas pipeline to transport liquid gas. Now, an effort is underway to take their plea directly to the source of their concerns.
Craig Williams with the Kentucky Environmental Foundation presented a letter to the Madison County Fiscal Court Tuesday that the foundation intends to send to Steven J. Kean, president and CEO of Kinder Morgan. The letter reinforces the significant amount of opposition to the project, and asks that the company consider abandoning the effort, Williams said.
Kinder Morgan recently obtained approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to abandon 964 miles of natural gas pipeline (the Tennessee Gas Pipeline) in six states, including Kentucky. Approximately 24.5 miles of the pipeline are in Madison County.
The plan was proposed in 2015 and would see the 70-plus-year-old pipeline, built for transporting natural gas from Louisiana to Ohio, become a natural gas liquid pipeline pushing the substance from the north to south.
Magistrates voted to allow judge-executive Reagan Taylor to sign the letter in support.
"This is a hazardous issue that we don't want flowing through our county," magistrate John Tudor said.
Williams said the company has been unable to move forward with the project because it hasn't found any market interest, so he hopes company executives will be amenable to dropping its plans.
Williams said he is taking the letter to other Kentucky counties the pipeline flows through, as well as to Eastern Kentucky University president Michael Benson.
"We're making an end run here," Williams said, adding that he also plans to network with Tennessee counties in the line of the pipeline.
Safety concerns over the pipeline's age, and ability to withstand the pressure to move liquid gas have prompted the resistance.
"The pressure it takes to move a gas is less than the pressure it takes to move a liquid," Williams said.
Ordinances the fiscal court enacted in the summer of 2016 also might be a deterrent for the project's continuance, Williams said.
Despite letters of opposition from the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, the Kentucky Gas Association and Tennessee Gas Pipeline, the fiscal court in June 2016 unanimously approved ordinances that would require conditional use permits before a hazardous liquids pipeline may be re-purposed or a large natural gas pipeline compressor can be constructed.
The letter to Kean is not the only recent action taken by Kentucky organizations. Three environmental groups filed a Petition for Review on Jan. 31 with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals asking the court to review the decision by (FERC) approving the abandonment and re-purposing of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline, according to a press release from the Kentucky Environmental Foundation. The petitioning organizations — Kentucky Resources Council, Allegheny Defense Project and Kentucky Heartwood — argue that the FERC failed to give adequate consideration to the unique safety and environmental risks posed by approving the re-purposing of the seven-decade-old pipeline for transporting heavier, more volatile natural gas liquids.
According to its website, Kinder Morgan is one of the largest energy infrastructure companies in North America and owns an interest in or operates approximately 85,000 miles of pipelines and 152 terminals. The company's pipelines transport natural gas, gasoline, crude oil, carbon dioxide (CO2) and more.
Kentucky Heartwood files in U.S. Court of Appeals to block Kinder Morgan/Tennessee Gas Pipeline conversion project
For Immediate Release, February 6, 2018
Contact: Ryan Talbott, Allegheny Defense Project, (503) 329-9162
Tom Fitzgerald, Kentucky Resources Council, (502) 875 2428
Jim Scheff, Kentucky Heartwood, (859) 334-0602, firstname.lastname@example.org
Groups petition U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. for review of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Order Approving “Abandonment” and “Repurposing” of Tennessee Gas Pipeline
Federal agency failed to consider unique safety and environmental hazards posed by conversion of aging natural gas pipeline to transporting hazardous liquids
BEREA, KY – Three environmental groups filed a Petition for Review with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on January 31st asking the Court to review a decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approving the abandonment and repurposing of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline (TGP), owned by energy infrastructure company Kinder Morgan. The petitioning organizations, Kentucky Resources Council, Allegheny Defense Project, and Kentucky Heartwood, argue that the FERC failed to give adequate consideration to the unique safety and environmental risks posed by approving the repurposing of a 24” diameter, 70+ year-old natural gas pipeline for transporting heavier, more volatile natural gas liquids (NGLs).
Natural gas liquids are hydrocarbon byproducts of oil and gas extraction. The “fracking boom” in the Marcellus Shale region of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia has created a glut of these materials, which are used in the plastics and other industries. FERC approved the “abandonment in place” of one of Tennessee Gas’ natural gas pipelines; the first step in Kinder Morgan’s plan to reverse the flow in order to transport NGLs to processing and export facilities on the Gulf Coast. The pipeline traverses 6 states and 18 Kentucky counties.
Particular concerns have been raised in Kentucky, with the pipeline passing through populated areas of Richmond in Madison County and Danville and Herrington Lake in Boyle County. Both counties have passed zoning requirements relating to hazardous liquids pipelines in order to have some say in whether or not hazardous liquids pipelines are compatible with existing land uses.
The pipeline also poses risks to the exceptional biodiversity of the Green River upstream and through Mammoth Cave National Park. The river provides habitat for 151 species of fish, with 29 mussel and fish species that are considered imperiled or vulnerable, and 7 listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Unlike natural gas, a portion of the NGLs can leak or spill into surface and groundwater and soil, causing serious and lasting environmental impacts.
The petitioners filed a Request for Rehearing with FERC last October. FERC failed to issue a decision on the Petition for Rehearing, instead issuing a “tolling order,” stating that the request was being reviewed but not decided upon. FERC-issued tolling orders allow pipeline projects to move forward while delaying citizens timely access to judicial review. The Petitioners believe that the failure of FERC to act within the time allowed for a decision on rehearing, set by Congress, made the underlying decision to approve the pipeline abandonment immediately subject to judicial review.
Over the course of FERCs environmental analysis, more than 900 comments were submitted, almost entirely opposed to the project. Among those expressing concern were the Madison County Fiscal Court, the Clark County Fiscal Court, the Boyle County Fiscal Court, the Marion County Fiscal Court, the Barren County Fiscal Court, Kentucky State Senate Majority Whip Jimmy Higdon, the Bluegrass Areas Development District, the Danville-Boyle County Chamber of Commerce, the City of Danville, the Danville Independent School District and Danville Schools Board of Education, and the Rowan County Board of Education.
“The reversal and conversion of this pipeline to transport NGLs will further induce fracking in Pennsylvania, fragmenting our forested watersheds with more roads and well pads,” said Ryan Talbott, executive director of the Allegheny Defense Project. “FERC, however, refused to even consider those impacts before approving Kinder Morgan’s proposal. Such a short-sighted, industry-friendly review may benefit Kinder Morgan’s bottom line but it comes at the expense of Pennsylvanians’ right to clean water and intact forests.”
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