FRANKFORT, Ky. (9/17/13) – State Rep. John Tilley pre-filed legislation today that would make the law governing eminent domain clearer when issues arise like those surrounding the proposed Bluegrass Pipeline.
“I want to make certain that the inherent rights of Kentuckians are secure and free from the unregulated use of eminent domain,” said Rep. Tilley, who chairs the House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee. “Our Constitution guarantees strong protections when it comes to property rights, and our statutes should be consistent with those values. We should strive to maintain the proper balance between those rights and economic development when it comes to safely transporting fossil fuels. I believe the state needs to paint a brighter line on how pipelines like this are built and where they can be located.”
As proposed, the Bluegrass Pipeline would ship natural gas liquids from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia to Texas and Louisiana. The planned route in Kentucky includes 13 counties, from Bracken in the northeast to an existing connection in Breckinridge.
Rep. Tilley’s bill would specify that any proposed oil and gas pipelines are available for “public use as a common carrier” for similar products, which is a more stringent guideline when compared to the current law that requires these pipelines only be of a “public service” when it becomes eminent domain. Under his bill, the Public Service Commission (PSC) also would play a gatekeeper role if those constructing pipelines cannot reach agreement with private landowners.
“I think the PSC is the natural administrative body to handle these types of questions, given its work in regulating other utilities,” said Rep. Tilley, D-Hopkinsville. “This would enable the state to put this bill in place almost immediately.”
If this becomes law, the PSC could grant eminent domain only after it makes the request public and open to input. In addition, PSC would have to determine that the condemnation is in the public interest; that the project meets all safety, construction and operation protocols; and that the environment is protected, including groundwater resources.
“My legislation will make sure that everyone involved has a chance to make their concerns known, and that the work will be done to proper standards without hindering efforts to make our country more energy independent,” Rep. Tilley said. “I think it strikes a fair balance.”
Rep. Tilley’s legislation will be considered during the 2014 Regular Session, which begins in January.
Information provided by Brian Wilkerson
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