By Sammy Meador, Intern, KY Student Environmental Coalition
By Nicholas Johnson, University of Louisville, University of Louisville
The School of Liberal Studies at Spalding University in Louisville hosted its annual Keenan Lecture on the topic of the Bluegrass Pipeline. In the interdisciplinary spirit of the School of Liberal Studies, this topic was chosen to explore the interconnections of religion with politics and environmental justice in the case of the pipeline project. The school’s chairwoman, Dr. Pattie Dillon, says that they “chose the Bluegrass Pipeline as the topic for this year’s lecture because it ties to the School of Liberal Studies’ theme this year—the natural environment—and because it links to the university’s mission of social justice and responding to the needs of the times in terms of the environment and the promotion of peace and justice.”
The Bluegrass Pipeline project is a perfect example of conflict in the intersection of the natural environment and social justice. The proposed pipeline, a partnership of Williams Company and Boardwalk Pipeline Partners, is a buried 24” pipe that would transport hazardous natural gas liquids—a byproduct of hydraulic fracturing—from natural gas fields in the northeast, across more than a dozen Kentucky counties and several other states, and to the Gulf coast for refining and export. While it is clear that more fracking is not a good thing and that the environmental damages of the extraction and burning of fossil fuels are apparent, this particular case demonstrates several other ways in which Big Energy threatens social and environmental justice.
The first panelist to speak was Sister Kathy Wright of the Sisters of Loretto. These nuns, who reside in the Kentucky’s ‘holy land,’ live by the motto “We work for justice and act for peace because the Gospel urges us.” The Sisters of Loretto have become strong opponents to the project for two significant reasons. First, the proposed path of the pipeline crosses lands owned by the group. In their pursuit of cleaner energy and environmental stewardship, the nuns had a pretty good reason to say “Not in our back yard!” But even once the surveyors were refused permission to route the pipeline through their property, the nuns did not give up the fight.
As sister Wright said, the gospel gives them a sense of duty to protect the land and the people. As members of creation, they have a “big back yard.” The nuns recognize that projects such as the Bluegrass Pipeline won’t just affect them and their immediate neighbors, but represent a larger conflict that bring social and environmental injustice to their neighbors across the world.
Following on the heels of the faith perspective was Cara Cooper, the statewide coordinator for the Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition(KSEC), representing students and young people who oppose and would be impacted by the pipeline. Ms. Cooper described some of the ways in which students had responded to the threat of the Bluegrass Pipeline by organizing, rallying, petitioning, and working hard to stop the pipeline. At Kentucky State University, pipeline employees surveyed school property without permission, showing no respect for proper protocol and procedure, and no concern for the sanctity of institutions of higher education. Such offenses caused a powerful group of student from across the state to devote their efforts to stopping the project, even if it did not immediately impact them or their campuses. Ms. Cooper, KSEC, and Kentucky students clearly share a concern for others and their planet as a whole as evidence by their efforts to stop the pipeline.
The pipeline companies are coming to realize that they have made a mistake trying to bully their way across the state by buying off rural landowners and threatening to evict those who aren’t for sale by abusing the powers of eminent domain. After their claims that the project would be good for Kentucky were debunked, they have changed their tune to try to appeal to some misguided sense of patriotism and nationalism. The companies have essentially been called out on the benefits to the state, and now are saying “Yeah, sure, maybe it won’t help Kentucky directly, but think of all the American made energy this will produce, and how much of a step towards energy independence it represents!” (As if we don’t all know that these liquids are dirty fossil fuels intended for export to the rest of the world.) But, as Ms. Cooper pointedly concluded, “there is nothing energy independent or American about it!”
Tom FitzGerald, the director of the Kentucky Resources Council, concluded the talk by offering a legal perspective of the project. For one, the threat of use of eminent domain for a project that does not benefit society as a whole (as a dam or road may) is an abuse that threatens fundamental private property rights. Additionally, since natural gas liquids are not regulated at a national level by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, they essentially occupy a regulatory free-zone due to the so-called ‘Halliburton loophole.’ Dr. Fitzgerald outlined several ways that citizens can take direct action to put pressure on lawmakers and regulators to close these loopholes and start properly regulating projects like the Bluegrass Pipeline. His four suggested ways to impact the project are:
By Cara Cooper
This week actions and events will be happening all across Kentucky for the KY Student Environmental Coalition’s Shifting the Power Week of Action. This is a collaboration of young people across the Commonwealth to bring forward the message that failure to clean up pollution, end dangerous and dirty extraction practices and invest in truly renewable, clean energy technology and infrastructure is a direct threat to their generation’s future and the lives of those who live in frontline communities where polluted water and toxic air is the day to day reality.
“There are ways that we are all to blame for what is happening around us, and doing things like switching your light bulbs and recycling are very important. But it is also important that we hold the government, corporations, and even our communities responsible for the role that they play as well” said Tyler Offerman, an organizer with KSEC. “This is why we are organizing on our campuses and in our communities and why we are having this week of action, to make sure that people know our futures are on the line”.
The “Shifting the Power Week of Action” is meant to highlight the depth and the breadth of the youth environmental movement in Kentucky and the wave to shift the power back from greedy corporations and dirty industries to the people who are impacted by the by these polluters. Events include a film screening and petitioning for local sustainable foods at Northern Kentucky University, collecting signatures of support for renewable energy and green economic development at the Louisville Bardstown Farmer’s Market, a sustainability teach-in and discussion of local environmental issues at Western Kentucky University, a film screening and collecting signatures of support for a sustainable projects fund at Murray State University, collecting petitions in Lexington outside of Rupp arena for Friday’s Wildcat game to oppose using coal severance tax money from being used for arena renovations instead of going to impacted communities, a Reality Check event at Morehead State University looking at facts and myths about renewable energy in Kentucky, and a letter-drop to the University of Kentucky’s president demanding investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency
“Climate change is a reality for my generation, as is air and water pollution”, said Offerman “the real question is can we adapt and make the changes that need to happen to keep us from reach a point of catastrophe or do we continue down the path that we are on, full speed ahead without so much as a plan”.
These efforts are only the beginning and young people across Kentucky will continue to push for a cleaner, safer, and healthier future for themselves and the planet. This generation not only has the most to lose from rampant pollution and climate change, it also has the most to gain by ending these practices and transitioning to a just and sustainable model.
By Cara Cooper
When did it become acceptable to just say whatever it is you need to get your way? At one time there was something that we all valued more than money, more than jobs, and it was a little thing called the truth. You know, I listen to these pony-show presentations put on by the Bluegrass Pipeline companies and just get so upset, because it seems to me that they have no qualms about stretching, and bending, and molding the truth. In fact, many of the things they have said recently have been outright lies and contradictions of things they told us early on in this process. I often wonder how these representatives sleep at night, how many Ambien it takes for them to drift off to dreamless sleep in their large, plush beds in their big, fancy homes.
Lies perpetrated by the Bluegrass Pipeline Companies. Number one, energy independence. This pipeline has absolutely nothing to do with energy. NGLs are mostly used to make plastics and they have no intention of keeping the bulk of that product in the U.S. Number two, jobs for Kentuckians. They talk about creating jobs for us here in Kentucky in one breath, and then spout that they will be creating a local economy boom when their workers stay in local hotels. Um, if the workers live here, why the heck do they need hotels? Number three, they want to be a good neighbor. If my neighbors were sneaking around on my property and surveying without permission, like many properties have been, there would be a feud starting in no time. Number four, their top priority is safety. It goes without saying that their top priority is money in their pockets, and all it takes is one look at the safety record of Williams Company to throw that lie right out the window.
Let’s be real folks, I know a lot of us are hurting for jobs, but let’s not let our desperation lead us to some irreversible disaster that could endanger our lives, ruin our water supply, damage our farmlands, lower our property values, and pollute our earth. Especially not for the few and temporary jobs that this project would create for here at home.
Stand in solidarity with those who are the front lines of this pipeline project. Call your state senators and representatives and make sure they know that we don’t want NGL pipelines in Kentucky and private corporations should not get the right of eminent domain to carry dangerous, toxic liquids through our state for the benefit of themselves and other countries. If this issue comes up for a vote, I can guarantee that the representatives along the pipeline route have already heard from their constituents and know to vote against the project, make sure your representatives know how to vote, too. Call 502-564-8100 and ask for your senator and you will be connected with their office.
By Cara Cooper
In response to the letter sent on behalf of the Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition to the Kentucky State University regarding the survey markers on their research and demonstration farm, President Mary Sias states that permission was not given to the Williams Company to survey the property.
Imagine my surprise when I checked my voice mail last week and had a message from the Kentucky State University president asking me to call her back and listing both her direct office line and her cell phone as the contact numbers. I immediately called back, both anxious and excited to hear what her response would be to our state coalition demanding that that they university re-think it's approval of having the Williams company survey their research farm. My surprise only grew as I listened to President Sias assure me that she is the only one who could have approved the survey on behalf of the university and that she had done no such thing! Either the company had surveyed the property with out permission (which would be illegal!) or the permission had come from higher up in the state with out the university's knowledge.
By the end of the week, news reports of President Sias going on record as having not given permission for the survey were coming up against the Williams Company's reports that their survey was not done illegally, and permission had been obtained (although by who, they won't reveal).
The plot only thickens as news has been released that the Governor's son works for the law firm of the company building the pipeline and rumors circulate that a state park was also surveyed "without permission".
Could it be that the state is secretly giving permission for land surveys to be completed and making back room deals with the pipeline companies? It would be one explanation for why the governor has continued to deny the public's calls for the pipeline to be added to this month's special session agenda even though his office has received over 5,000 petition signatures and hundreds of calls on the matter.
Stay tuned as this story unfolds!
The Young Kentuckian is a blog of the Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition where youth share their work and ideas for Kentucky's bright future.
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