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Two Views: Proposal will introduce underground hazards

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Guest column by Lara Beard, Elizabethtown

By LARA BEARD

Something wicked this way comes to Hardin County. Represented by a firm that employs our governor’s son and cloaked with smiles and promises, the Bluegrass Pipeline is ready to ooze dark miasma into our beloved Hardin County ground, water and air. It is recommended by people who have no allegiance to place, or reason for being here, but to profit themselves and their shareholders.

Seeking cheaply sold easements and claiming eminent domain to take over landowner’s rights along a proposed 18-county route which includes Hardin, Williams, which has a documented history of local and federal noncompliance, fines, pipeline explosions and leaks, is pushing to have a natural gas liquids pipeline up and running through our Heartland by 2015.

As of this writing, Williams has declined to voluntarily conduct a comprehensive environmental impact assessment.

Pipeline operators often understate or misrepresent the consequences of NGL pipeline releases. In Williams’ case, there are numerous documented records of leaks and explosions dating back to 1992 as well as fines for safety violations and noncompliance. Based on documented records, Williams does not have a history of responding responsibly to citizen and governmental concerns, even when there are clear safety risks identified.

  • June 2013, Louisiana: Williams Geismar Plant explosion and fire; two deaths, 62,000 pounds of toxic chemicals released, 114 injuries, revealing three years of noncompliance with the Federal Clean Air Act
  • May 2013, Susquehanna County, Pa.: Explosion at Williams compressor station. Williams restarted the damaged station within 24 hours of the explosion, ignoring instructions from the Pennslyvania Department of Environmental Protection.
  • March 2013, Marshall County, W.Va.: Williams pipeline rupture
  • December 2012, Parachute, Colo.: Leak starts, not detected by Williams until January 2013, after benzene, a cancer-causing agent, already had contaminated the soil and groundwater.
  • n December 2011, Marengo County, Ala.: Explosion of Transco Pipeline scorches eight acres, burns for several hours
  • September 2008: Williams pipeline explosion near Richmond, Va.
  • June 1999: Williams pipeline explosion in Bellingham, Wash., kills three young people

Natural gas liquids to be carried by the pipeline are not the natural gas you use in your home. They are components of natural gas that are separated from the gaseous state in the form of liquids, which Williams’ own specifications state are composed of the following: methane, ethane, ethylene, propane, butane, carbon dioxide, volatile sulfur, hydrogen sulfide, hexanes and pentanes. Under minimum federal pipeline safety regulations, NGL is classified as a highly volatile liquid.

Why should you care if the NGL Bluegrass Pipeline doesn’t go through your personal property? A major reason is because Hardin, LaRue, Breckinridge and several other counties in the proposed pipeline’s path are composed primarily of intense karst areas characterized by sinkholes, sinking streams, caves and springs.

A release or explosion of an NGL would produce dangerous hydrocarbon vapor clouds with the potential to immediately kill birds and mammals and cause severe respiratory and nervous system injury or even death to humans.

The heavier natural gasoline components (aside from the ethane, propane and butane) in NGL, which do not readily vaporize, would swiftly spread and contaminate a karst aquifer, smothering and killing aquatic life and poisoning the water with cancer-causing agents. Many of our public water systems use water from a karst aquifer when they withdraw from a stream or reservoir. Homes on wells drawing from karst aquifers or springs also would be affected.

The Bluegrass Pipeline proposed route in Hardin and adjacent counties threatens aquifers and should not be situated in these areas because of the sensitive water zones and nearly impossible cleanup and remediation in karst areas. Also, karst terrain provides an unstable foundation for pipes carrying highly volatile substances. Some of the other possible threats of the proposed pipeline include the dangers of pipeline construction, environmental destruction, and localized air pollution from constantly running compressor stations.

If you live in Hardin County or one of the other counties along the proposed route, contact your county judge-executive for more information. Demand a public hearing in which you are allowed to ask questions and present information in front of an audience. If you have been contacted by Wiilliams to survey your property, please do not allow them to survey until you have done your research on their company history and practices.

Lara Beard of Elizabethtown is a local property owner and environmentalist who has researched the Bluegrass Pipeline and opposes its development. She recommends readers visit www.stopbluegrasspipeline.us/p/resources.html for more information.