DANVILLE, Ky. (KT) - A group of Boyle County residents have been fighting for years a plan to use a World War II-era pipeline to carry fracking byproducts through the county. Now, that group has a name: Citizens Opposed to the Pipeline Conversion.
“We feel like we’ve really made a lot of progress in these four years” since the proposal to repurpose Tennessee Gas Pipeline No. 1 first came to the forefront in Boyle County, said Sarah Vahlkamp, a member of COPC’s 16-person steering committee.
The COPC has an estimated 300 people who are signed up to receive updates, according to the steering committee.
Those involved with the COPC have been monitoring the pipeline plan from Houston-based energy company Kinder Morgan since 2014 and taking action when possible to oppose it.
Kinder Morgan wants to repurpose 964 miles of pipeline that runs from northeastern Ohio to the gulf coast area to carry “natural gas liquids,” a collection of different substances that are byproducts of fracking in northeastern shale fields. Natural gas liquids, or NGLs, can be used to manufacture plastics, among other things.
Ask COPC steering committee members why they are opposed to the NGL pipeline and they are likely to point you to an informational sheet on NGLs that was produced by community organization Kentuckians for the Commonwealth after the Kinder Morgan plan was first announced in 2013. Many of them say the KFTC handout is what first got their attention about the issue, and they still use it today when explaining their position to new people.
“The NGLs would be transported under high-pressure and therefore in a liquid state in a pipeline build to transport natural gas. Pressure fluctuations are much more severe in a pipe transporting liquids instead of gases,” the KFTC handout reads. “When NGLs leak, about 85 percent will turn into an odorless, colorless and highly flammable vapor once they hit the air. NGL vapor is heavier than air and will stay low to the ground, settling in valleys, creeks, rivers or other low points. These vapors can be ignited by heat, spark or flame. That means a tractor or car engine can set off an explosion.
“An NGL explosion in Floyd County, Kentucky, in 2004 incinerated five houses and sent nine people to the hospital. That was from a 4-inch diameter line. The Tennessee Gas Pipeline is 24 inches in diameter.”
The handout goes on to explain how NGL vapors can cause unconsciousness or “even death by asphyxiation” and how an NGL leak can also cause soil and water contamination. It argues the “pre-1970 pipeline” (it was first installed more than 70 years ago) was welded “with welding technology that is no longer considered acceptable and is know to fail.” And it alleges Kinder Morgan “has a rather poor safety record,” citing 92 “significant incidents” along the Tennessee Gas Pipeline from 2006 to 2014, “resulting in $88,144,152 in property damage and 19 federal enforcement actions — showing that the decades-old line is not in good shape.”
The group now named Citizens Opposed to the Pipeline Conversion formed in 2014 and set as their slogan, “protect the health and safety of Boyle County citizens.”