In Kentucky, landowners await pipeline developers’ next step

Loretto Sister Ceciliana Skees was among several members of the Loretto Community in Kentucky who opposed the Bluegrass Pipeline. (CNS/courtesy Loretto Community)

Loretto Sister Ceciliana Skees was among many members of the Loretto Community in Kentucky who opposed the Bluegrass Pipeline. (CNS/courtesy Loretto Community)


Although the developers of a controversial 1,100-mile natural gas liquids pipeline passing through Kentucky have suspended investment in the project, opponents of the plan said they don’t believe it has been abandoned yet.

Sister Claire McGowan, a member of the Dominican Sisters of Peace in St. Catharine, Ky., and coordinator of an organization called New Pioneers for a Sustainable Future, told Catholic News Service that until the companies involved in the Bluegrass Pipeline formally end the project, those opposed to it must stay vigilant.

“Any new infrastructure that is designed to expand the use of fossil fuels is absolutely the wrong way to go,” Sister Claire said.

“The real issue is that we need to make the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, and we need to make it very soon,” she said.

The Dominican Sisters of Peace, the Sisters of Loretto and the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, all in an environmentally sensitive rural area an hour south of Louisville, joined environmental advocates and individual landowners in a campaign earlier this year to protect property rights. The coalition worked with the Kentucky legislature to enact a law that prevents pipeline companies from using eminent domain to secure rights of way when property owners do not want to sell those rights.

In December the religious congregations released a statement on energy usage and conservation. Titled “An Energy Vision from the Heart of Kentucky’s ‘Holy Land,’” more than 130 faith-based organizations and 1,000 individuals have since signed on.

Representatives of Williams and Boardwalk Pipeline Partners, the developers, said in late April in a posting on a website touting the project that the companies are “exercising capital discipline and not investing additional capital at this time.”

The posting indicated that potential customers are looking at other sources to move natural gas liquids, or NGLs. The statement did not mention the grassroots outcry against the pipeline in Kentucky. There has been little, if any, opposition to the project in Ohio and Pennsylvania, where the natural gas and NGLs are being tapped from deep shale formations through a complex procedure known as hydraulic fracturing.

Catholic News Service first wrote about the Bluegrass Pipeline in September.

Sister Claire said the momentum of the movement must continue.

“It is such a bad deal all the way around to think we’re so oriented toward profit that we cannot look at all to the values of protecting the environment that really matter for the future and our children and grandchildren,” she said.

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2 Responses to In Kentucky, landowners await pipeline developers’ next step

  1. Duane Lamers says:

    Srs. Claire and Ceciliana have bought into the unproven “feeling” (it is not an intellectual idea and certainly not a proven fact) that all fossil fuel usage is bad, despite the FACT that we have unimaginable quantites of natural gas below U.S. ground.

    There are plenty of EPA-established safeguards already in place to ensure the protection of the environment during construction of such a pipeline and its subsequent maintenance and operation.

    There is a Dominican congregation in Michigan that is barely hanging on by a thread while down the road not many miles the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament as a group are young and growing rapidly. Their focus is not on any “social activism.” I wonder what the stats are for these Kentucky groups. That might be telling.

    Given the above, I wonder why CNS hypes this activism.

  2. Mark Meade says:

    There is the FACT that the pipeline is not delivering to our citizen of Kentucky natural gas, it is transporting dangerous waste products over valuable land and near communities and wildlife. Another FACT: the natural gas companies flatly refuse to tell us what they use in the liquids they pump into the ground and which end up in the ground water of those in Pennsylvania and other fracking areas. It has been shown to pollute local sources of ground water. I should think it is also making its way into our waterways.

    I am proud of our local sisters for standing up for the stewardship of their land. If the private companies in mineral extraction would entrust the public with the knowledge it deserves in what it is doing to the environment, we could make informed decisions about these resources. Since they has chosen to put profit above the public good, it is well within the rights of citizens to ask for an accounting. I think it is duly appropriate for religious sisters to ask questions about how God’s creation is being stewarded.

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