Following the recent devastating pipeline explosion that took the life of one Kentuckian in Lincoln County, Attorney General Andy Beshear wants greater scrutiny of the planned Louisville Gas and Electric Company (LG&E) Bullitt County Natural Gas Transmission Pipeline Project.
Beshear announced today that his Office of Rate Intervention filed a motion to intervene and expand the scope of a complaint case before the state’s Public Service Commission (PSC) that Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest brought against LG&E over concerns surrounding its Bullitt County natural gas pipeline.
Intervening on behalf of Kentuckians, Beshear says the PSC should expand the matter to ensure the pipeline project meets safety, legal and regulatory compliance requirements, and address the tactics used and costs projected to secure and complete the pipeline.
“Given the recent tragedy in Lincoln County, I believe we must apply greater scrutiny to every pipeline project being proposed and constructed in our state,” Beshear said. “Kentuckians deserve to know that pipelines running across their property comply with the law and are as safe as possible.”
Beshear’s office noted recent decisions by the PSC concerning LG&E’s pipelines and safety practices, reminding the PSC of its “jurisdiction to regulate the safety of natural gas facilities in Kentucky.” The pipeline in Lincoln County was a large multi-state pipeline, and thus under federal jurisdiction. The Bullitt County pipeline, which will operate as part of LG&E’s transmission and distribution system, is entirely within the border of Kentucky and subject to PSC jurisdiction.
Beshear’s office is also concerned about complaints as to alleged tactics used to acquire the land for the pipeline. The complaint notes comments and statements made by the company that show “LG&E’s inappropriate use of its monopoly status to pressure” the remaining property owners to grant easements and right-of-ways, while threatening condemnation of their property.
Beshear’s office also notes that there is no evidence that the PSC has subsequently reviewed the numerous environmental permits LG&E is required to obtain for the project, and which the PSC required LG&E to file with it after receipt.
As the watchdog for consumers in matters relating to natural gas, water, sewer, electric and landline telephone rates, Beshear’s office further points out in its motions that the pipeline’s increasing cost warrants an expanded inquiry.
Beshear said the cost of the pipeline has increased nearly 50% in just two years and is currently estimated to cost $38.7 million.
The next steps in the case are determined by the PSC.
Under Kentucky law, Beshear’s office is responsible for representing the interests of Kentucky consumers before quasi-judicial and governmental ratemaking agencies. Over the past three and a half years, Beshear’s rate intervention team has helped Kentucky families avoid approximately $1.6 billion in proposed utility rate increases.
Over the past year alone, the office has taken on an unprecedented number of cases saving families in approximately 90 counties more than $113 million a year.
This spring, Beshear’s office also filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Kentucky Supreme Court in support of low-income advocates having the ability to participate in utility rate cases. For nearly two decades, low-income advocates were granted participation in LG&E or KU rate cases before the PSC denied them earlier this year.
“If our families are being asked to pay more or are directly impacted by the actions of investor-owned utilities, I want to ensure their voices are heard,” Beshear said.
Beshear urges Kentuckians needing to file a utility complaint to do so by completing his office’s online form.