December 20, 2019
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The Kentucky Public Service Commission on Friday rejected Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest’s challenge to the utility regulator’s 2017 approval of a 12-mile natural gas pipeline that Louisville Gas & Electric plans to build through Bullitt County, including through land owned by Bernheim.
The commission, a three-person body appointed by former Gov. Matt Bevin, also rejected two similar challenges to the controversial pipeline filed by residents of the area.
While the regulator’s ruling is a win for LG&E, the company still has obstacles to overcome before it can begin construction on the pipeline.
LG&E has filed lawsuits to condemn Bernheim land and other property in Bullitt County needed for the pipeline. Those cases are pending.
The utility also has yet to receive a key permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers needed for work to start.
Bernheim has 20 days to submit more information to the commission in hopes of persuading the body to reconsider Friday’s ruling. The two individuals, Kimberly Brown and Vanessa Allen, have already passed that threshold in their cases.
The commission’s decisions can also be appealed to Franklin Circuit Court.
In a statement, Bernheim called the ruling “unfortunate but not entirely surprising, as they (commission) were considering their own prior decision.” The organization said it’s reviewing options.
“It is important for the public, all supporters of nature, and those interested in protecting conservation easements to know that this decision is in no way the end of this issue or our fight to protect Bernheim’s land and conservation easements,” Bernheim said.
The key argument in Bernheim’s challenge was that the forest was aggrieved by the fact that LG&E provided no notice to the public or affected land owners of the pipeline plan before the regulator approved it in 2017.
Therefore, neither Bernheim or others had the chance to inform the commission of their objections to the planned route.
The commission also noted that Bernheim’s case is undermined by the fact that the nonprofit organization did not acquire the land in the pipeline path until 2018, the year after the commission approved the pipeline.
LG&E spokeswoman Natasha Collins said in an email that the company is pleased with the commission’s decision.
“Our goal now, as it always has been, is to meet the energy demands of our customers in the Bullitt County area with the safe, reliable natural gas service they’re requesting and service that will enable their families, businesses and our region as a whole to continue to grow and prosper,” she said. “We have and will continue to follow the proper processes as we work toward that goal.”