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Natural-Gas Pipeline Threatens Bullitt Co. Forest

Protesters rally to protect Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest in Bullitt County from a proposed natural-gas pipeline. (Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest)
Protesters rally to protect Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest in Bullitt County from a proposed natural-gas pipeline. (Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest)
October 2, 2019

Updated at 10am on 10/3/2019 to include: LG&E is requesting a land easement of 4,000 feet for the project, that would cross property on Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A proposed natural-gas pipeline that would affect forestland in Bullitt County is drawing protests. LG&E is requesting a land easement of 4,000 feet for the project, that would cross property on Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest.

Supporters of the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest say the pipeline would decimate the natural park and wilderness area. Its executive director, Dr. Mark Wourms, said that the organization a year ago purchased 494 acres.

A few weeks later, he said, he was notified by LG&E about its intent to run a natural gas pipeline through the region.

"See, we have deed restrictions and conservation easements on these parcels; that's impossible," Wourms said. "We said that we were obligated legally to fight any kind of pipeline or transmission line. And so now, we're seeing ourselves being sued by LG&E, so that they could condemn our land and take it through the power of eminent domain."

Purchased by philanthropist Isaac Bernheim 90 years ago, the park's more than 16,000 acres are dedicated to conserving wildlife habitat. Wourms said a pipeline project would destroy acres of land and carbon-capturing forest without the opportunity for regrowth, and at the wrong time in history, "at a time when Louisville and this region – and in fact, Kentucky as a whole – is heating rapidly, due to a global climate crisis."

Sierra Club member Donald Dott, a Kentucky Natural Lands Trust board member, said utilities often target protected lands because they are less developed.

"I think they could certainly find an alternative," he said. "The problem here comes from the fact that this is a large tract of undeveloped land. There's no homes, there's no businesses. So for them, it's a less expensive area to go through."

In a statement on LG&E's website, the utility maintained that the pipeline is needed to reliably serve Bullitt County residents, and added that the project was approved before Bernheim purchased the property.

More information is online at bernheim.org/forestunderthreat.

Disclosure: Sierra Club, Cumberland Chapter contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Public Lands/Wilderness, Sustainable Agriculture, Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - KY