A months-long legal battle between utility Louisville Gas & Electric and Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, a nonprofit nature preserve, ramped up in the fall. The fight centers around the monopoly utility’s plans to build a 12-mile long gas pipeline that would cross three-quarters of a mile of the forest through an existing easement for power lines.
In September, the utility sued the state in an attempt to overturn a conservation easement using eminent domain. The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet requested in November to have the case thrown out, arguing that LG&E did not attempt to buy the easement first. The utility previously sued Bullitt County landowners, Bernheim and the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund Board, the state entity that holds the easement. LG&E’s eminent domain lawsuits were ongoing as of press time in early December.
Environmentalists are particularly concerned about LG&E’s unprecedented efforts to terminate conservation easements.
“This is new and this is potentially a very bad precedent,” Don Dott, president of the Kentucky Land Trusts Coalition, told WFPL News Louisville in October.
Bernheim purchased the 500-acre area containing the pipeline crossing in 2018 to serve as a wildlife corridor and to protect endangered species such as the Indiana Bat.
LG&E states that the pipeline is needed to supply growing demand in the area, which it argues has surpassed current natural gas capacity. The utility is still missing several state and federal permits for the pipeline. — By Kevin Ridder