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Controversial Kentucky Pipeline Conversion Project Scrapped

The city of Danville has for years fought one of the country’s largest owners of oil and gas pipelines to block a controversial project that runs through an elementary school, a main thoroughfare and the city’s water supply.

The proposal would have reversed the flow of the existing Tennessee Gas Pipeline and converted it from carrying natural gas to more hazardous byproducts called natural gas liquids.

Now Kinder Morgan has announced plans to scrap the project saying it will continue to provide natural gas service. The pipeline travels through 18 Kentucky counties stretching from the Ohio state border in the northeast to the Tennessee border in the south.

CEO Steven Kean said in a conference call with investors last week the company wasn’t seeing enough customers sign-up for the new service. He called it a “a lack of opportunity.”

But advocacy groups and local residents say their opposition helped drive the decision.

“I think they were surprised at the amount of opposition they got in Kentucky,” said Danville resident Jim Porter on Monday. “We are very happy, we are ecstatic, we are going to be having a celebration tomorrow.”

Natural gas liquids are a mix of hydrocarbons that can include ethane, butane and propane. Often they’re used in manufacturing plastics, synthetic rubber and antifreeze. They are often more volatile and pose more health hazards than natural gas.

Opposition groups expressed concerns about the increased threat of an explosion, as well risks of asphyxiation and environmental contamination.

Back in 2016, theDanville City Commission and the fiscal court in Boyle County passed resolutions opposing the pipeline. More than a hundred people voiced opposition in Marion County, according to the Courier Journal.

Meanwhile, environmental advocacy groups led by the Kentucky Resources Council challenged Kinder Morgan’s plans.

Kentucky Conservation Committee Executive Director Lane Boldman said it’s a bright spot for communities that raised awareness on the issue and pushed back on projects in their backyards.

“Certainly this has been a trend nationwide where communities are putting up a lot of resistance to these kind of infrastructures that are not well-vetted,” Boldman said. “You know people don’t expect to have an industrial complex moving through their backyards, and they shouldn’t.”

This story has been updated to correct the location of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline in Kentucky.

Ryan Van Velzer is the Kentucky Public Radio Managing Editor. Email Ryan at rvanvelzer@lpm.org.

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