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What's Next With the Bluegrass Pipeline?

Monday morning, one of the companies behind the proposed Bluegrass Pipeline announced that it was suspending capital investmentin the project.

The company, Williams, has not returned a telephone message. But the company did issue a Q&A that addressed several lingering issues.

Among them, Williams said the suspension of investment into the proposed natural gas liquids pipeline didn't come about because of opposition from landowners or environmental groups.

Instead, Williams said the project generated too few commitments from customers who'd ship on the proposed pipeline connecting natural gas liquids production in the Northeast to the Gulf of Mexico. The pipeline would, as we know, meander through Kentucky.

The goal for finishing the Bluegrass Pipeline was the end of 2015, but earlier this year Williams officials pushed back that date by a year because of a lack of customer commitments.

The project faced opposition from landowners and environmental groups—but it said in the Q&A that this was not the reason for the suspension of investment. The question of whether eminent domain could be used to secure land for the pipeline came up in the Kentucky General Assembly's 2014 session. A circuit judge ruled last month that the company couldn't use eminent domain.

What Now?

The Bluegrass Pipeline is "not dead," said Stan Horton, chief executive of Boardwalk Pipeline Partners, Williams' collaborator in the project.

“We continue to have discussions with customers, but again, over the past 12 months, we’ve had these discussions with customers and we have not been able to get commitments,” Horton said in a conference call that Kentucky Public Radio's Emil Moffatt was on.

“That’s why we decided that we were no longer going to fund the capital.”

So the Bluegrass Pipeline is neither happening anytime soon nor dead for good.

But the process to secure land for the project was underway.

In most instances, Williams got option on right-of-ways from willing landowners,the company said. Those options were written for three years—and they'll remain in effect. And they can be sold with or without approval, depending on the individual deal struck. The landowners keep the payments already made. If the option is used in three years, the landowner gets another payment. If not, the landowner keeps the land but doesn't get the other payment.

Sonya Mouser Unnoppet is a landowner in Nelson County who got involved in the opposition to the proposed pipeline after learning that survey markers had been placed 100 feet from her property. She  said she's concerned about landowners who've already agreed to right-of-way options, and added that those in and around the pipeline's proposed path shouldn't assume the matter is settled.

"I think that landowners still need to be vigilant with protecting property rights for individuals," she said.

Joseph Lord is the online managing editor for WFPL.

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