Environment

A county in central Kentucky is poised to consider a zoning change that could affect a massive multi-state pipeline project.

Boyle County government will consider whether to require all hazardous liquids pipelines to receive permits from the county’s zoning board. That would create a hurdle if energy company Kinder Morgan’s conversion of the massive Tennessee Gas Pipeline moves forward.

The Tennessee Gas Pipeline isn’t new; it’s carried natural gas across 18 Kentucky counties for 70 years. But now, Kinder Morgan is seeking regulatory approval to change the pipeline. The proposal involves reversing the flow and converting it to carry natural gas liquids, rather than natural gas.

Natural Gas Liquids, or NGLs, are the byproducts of natural gas drilling: hydrocarbons such as ethane, butane and propane. They’re used in manufacturing plastics, synthetic rubber and antifreeze, and they’re worth money. But they’re also more hazardous than natural gas, and create different safety risks.

Because of this, NGL pipelines have been controversial in Kentucky. One large new project — the Bluegrass Pipeline — was put on hold in 2014 after substantial opposition.

Kinder Morgan’s proposed pipeline conversion is still going through the approval process with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. But in the meantime, Boyle County officials want to ensure they’ll get a say locally in whether the pipeline — which crosses the county — will be converted.

“[The public has] pushed for some way to regulate and know about what’s going on with these pipelines,” said Boyle County Judge-Executive Harold McKinney. “Now, this [ordinance] then would require, in this case Kinder Morgan to come in and get a Conditional Use Permit from our planning and zoning commission.”

McKinney said one of the main concerns is the pipeline’s current route under Herrington Lake, which provides water to the city of Danville. He said the community response wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction to change, but the public feels strongly that they want input.

“It may be that those conditional use permits would be granted, but it would be an opportunity to exchange some information,” McKinney said.

“And at that time, obviously, [Kinder Morgan] would have to give certain information about what they’re going to do and why they’re going to do it and what the effect of it is. Which clearly makes our public more informed and clearly it gives the government and the public at large an opportunity to know what’s happening and to be able to make some more intelligent decisions about how they want their land used.”

A spokeswoman for Kinder Morgan said the company was aware of Boyle County’s proposal but declined to comment.