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Environmentalists protest outside LG&E headquarters to halt Bullitt County pipeline

Protestors, one dressed in a bat costume, stand outside of Louisville Gas and Electric's headquarters to protest the planned pipeline that would go through parts of Bernheim Forest.
Courtesy of Deborah Potts Novgorodoff
Protestors, one dressed in a bat costume, stand outside of Louisville Gas and Electric's headquarters to protest the planned pipeline that would go through parts of Bernheim Forest.

Deborah Potts Novgorodoff donned a pair of sneakers, a warm jacket and a bat costume to urge Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities to stop the construction of a natural gas pipeline through conservation lands in Bullitt County.

On Friday, she and 21 other protesters attempted to hand deliver a letter to LG&E President John Crockett urging the utility to drop plans to condemn land owned by Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest in an upcoming court case.

“We weren’t too well received, but managed to hand it to a security guard who would only take it outside the lobby,” Potts Novgorodoff said.

Environmentalists, local homeowners and Bernheim have, for years, been fighting LG&E’s efforts to build a 12-mile-long pipeline that crosses through Bernheim’s Cedar Grove Wildlife Corridor. LG&E has long said the current pipeline in the area is at full capacity and a new one is necessary to meet growing demand and improve reliability in Bullitt County.

The proposed route would remove nearly 40 acres of forest, cross at least six major waterways impacting wetlands, sinkholes and habitat for more than a half-dozen threatened or endangered species, according to an LG&E stormwater pollution prevention plan.

Utility regulators first granted Louisville Gas and Electric approval to build the pipeline in 2017. LG&E’s has since received a number of other major permits for the pipeline, but in April federal officials suspended a key permit to look for critical habitat for bats protected under the Endangered Species Act.

That hasn’t stopped LG&E from moving forward with its legal strategy to acquire the lands necessary to build the pipeline however. On Jan. 10, LG&E will take Bernheim to court in an attempt to condemn the lands necessary to run the pipeline through the Cedar Grove Wildlife Corridor.

The letter to LG&E’s president outlines environmental, financial and climate-related reasons for dropping the condemnation proceedings and halting the pipeline. Potts Novgorodoff said LG&E should be investing in renewable energy, not fossil fuel infrastructure, given the limited amount of time the planet has reached net-zero emissions and avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

“LG&E needs to be smarter about climate change and the kinds of planning they do long term,” Potts Novgorodoff said.

LG&E vice president of communications and corporate responsibility Chris Whelan said the utility understands that the construction of the pipeline is an “emotional issue,” but multiple federal agencies and courts have reviewed and approved of the project.

“It remains our priority on every project, including this one, to meet the energy demands that accompany customer growth while also minimizing impacts to the environment and surrounding community,” Whelan wrote in an email. “We continue to work with the Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies to ensure protection of the environment and acquire all necessary permits.”

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

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