Landowners in KY Win Case Against Eminent Domain

Excerpt from the Courier-Journal. Read the full article here.

"The Kentucky Supreme Court has let an appeals court decision stand that only regulated utilities can use the power of eminent domain to get land for pipelines.

That decision deals a blow to companies looking to lay new pipeline to carry natural gas liquids from through Kentucky from oil and gas fields in Ohio and western Pennsylvania to the refineries and ports along the Gulf Coast because it will make it more difficult and expensive to get the land they need. That became a controversial across Kentucky in recent years amid a boom brought on by new drilling methods using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, with concerns about property values, safety, water pollution and property rights.

"Today is a good day for Kentucky landowners and for freedom," Louisville attorney Tom FitzGerald posted on his Facebook page.

University of Louisville law professor Tony Arnold, a land-use and environmental law expert, said the decision was "significant for both for opponents of the Bluegrass Pipeline and for all Kentucky residents who want to ensure that the exercise of eminent domain for energy development and transmission is held accountable to the public interest."

However, he said the ruling has its limits.

"National companies seeking to move oil or gas through Kentucky and to use eminent domain to acquire easements for their preferred routes may try to get around (this) limited ruling by partnering with public utilities that are regulated by the Public Service Commission or with state agencies," Arnold said. "They would have to provide some sort of benefit or service to Kentucky residents, such as providing some of the oil and gas to Kentuckians.

"Don't underestimate the tenacity of energy companies to find a way to get what they want."

The case involved the Bluegrass Pipeline, which was to be developed by the Williams company. That pipeline would have snaked across nearly 200 miles of Kentucky, but the company put it on indefinite hold in April 2014, saying that it did not have enough customers for the liquids it sought to move."