Environmental assessment of pipeline proposal delayed two months

Published 9:41 am Wednesday, September 7, 2016

It will take at least two more months to complete an environmental assessment of a proposal to modify a natural-gas pipeline that runs through Boyle County.

The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission released a notice this month that it will not issue its environmental assessment of Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company’s proposal until Nov. 2.

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Tennessee Gas, which is owned by Houston-based energy infrastructure company Kinder Morgan, wants to formally abandon the 960-mile natural-gas pipeline so that it can be converted to carry “natural gas solids” (NGLs) in the opposite direction.

The proposal has met with stiff opposition from local governments and organizations. Those opposed to the plan worry the decades-old pipeline was not designed to carry heavier and potentially dangerous NGLs. A leak or break in the line, especially near Herrington Lake, could lead to major pollution and health issues, they have argued.

The Boyle County Fiscal Court, Danville City Commission and all members of the Danville-Boyle County Economic Development Partnership have formally disapproved of the plan.

According to FERC’s notice, the deadline extension on the environmental assessment (EA) was needed because Tennessee Gas “provided modifications to the proposed facilities that require additional time for staff to consider.”

Mark Morgan, a Danville attorney who has been working with those opposed to the proposal, said he believes the deadline extension is “very good news.”

“I don’t want to overstate the importance of it, but it means that FERC … is not just going to rubber-stamp the application by Tennessee Gas or Kinder Morgan to abandon Pipeline One,” Morgan said. “… I think it appears that FERC is doing a fairly thorough look — as they should under the National Environmental Policy Act.”

Morgan said the fact FERC required an environmental assessment in the first place was good news because that normally doesn’t happen.

Those opposed to the plan hope the environmental assessment leads FERC to call for an environmental impact study (EIS), which would be a far more in-depth study of the pipeline proposal and its potential impacts.

Morgan said an EIS would require studies of what kinds of pressures, weights and flow-rates the current pipeline could handle.

“An EIS is much more detailed, much more thorough,” he said. “… It would be extremely important for this community if an EIS is required.”