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PNS Daily Newscast - November 15, 2018 


Lawyer Michael Avenatti arrested on a domestic violence charge. Also on the Thursday rundown: More testimony on Ohio's "anti-protest" bill; and we'll take you to the Dakotas to celebrate American Education Week.

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Pipeline Regulator Accused of Being Cozy With the Industry

An opponent of a plan to re-purpose a natural gas pipeline which crosses through Kentucky shows a group of citizens the pipe's path in one neighborhood. (Greg Stotelmyer)
An opponent of a plan to re-purpose a natural gas pipeline which crosses through Kentucky shows a group of citizens the pipe's path in one neighborhood. (Greg Stotelmyer)
December 13, 2016

FRANKFORT, Ky. – A spate of proposed gas pipeline projects, including one in Kentucky, is bringing sharp criticism that the federal permitting agency has a built-in bias toward the industry. During what organizers called a "People's Hearing" earlier this month, nearly 70 people from a dozen states testified about bias and problems at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Jim Scheff, the director of the group Kentucky Heartwood, said he's encountering that as his organization and others attempt to stop the proposed re-purposing of a pipeline which travels 256 miles through Kentucky.

"I've dealt with a number of federal agencies over the years and I've never seen anything like FERC," he said. "They've set up the whole process and the structure to exclude participation in the process, with a bias toward the industry."

The industry and agency argue that many of the proposed pipelines are being driven by pressure to move the huge quantity of new gas in the northeast to market.

Delaware Riverkeeper Maya van Rossum said Congress should investigate, claiming FERC is a "rogue agency" which almost always sides with the industry over citizens and the environment.

By law, FERC permits pipelines that can demonstrate a public need. And it allows those companies to make a 14 percent guaranteed profit. Van Rossum said the companies will sometimes justify the need for a pipeline by showing contracts to sell gas from one branch of the corporation to another.

"The customer for the pipeline company delivering the gas is actually, in total or in part, the pipeline company itself," she explained.

At issue here in Kentucky is energy company Kinder Morgan's plan to repurpose a natural gas pipeline so it can move natural gas liquids, byproducts of fracking, to the Gulf Coast. The aging 24-inch pipe crosses through 18 Kentucky counties from the state's northeast corner to its southern border. Scheff said FERC has refused to address what happens if the pipeline ruptures.

"FERC has said that, one, they don't need to analyze that, even though they do under the National Environmental Policy Act," he added. "And second, and most alarming, is that they say in their environmental assessment that the likelihood of a pipeline leak is so small that it doesn't need to be considered."

Scheff said that's a "gross position" for the federal agency to take with regard to human and environmental safety.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY