A controversial natural gas liquids pipeline that has drawn much attention locally may have hit an even larger snag last week when questions were raised by the U.S. Parks Service about potential danger to Mammoth Cave National Park.
The park’s superintendent, Sarah Craighead, gave voice to concerns that sound eerily similar to those coming from residents of Boyle County, where more than 20 miles of the Kinder Morgan line would be repurposed. In a letter obtained by The Courier-Journal, she cited familiar worries about the age of the actual pipeline and the possibility of a catastrophic leak that would put species and the vast underground environment in danger.
One of the main reasons for caution is the karst terrain surrounding the west Kentucky cave system, which is characterized by large sinkholes and subterranean streams and caves. Scientists worry about how collapses caused by these characteristics of limestone topography might lead to spills spreading over much wider areas because of those same karst features, many of which our area shares.
Something slightly different from our local situation: The pipeline doesn’t even run through the actual national park. The unease of earth scientists and park officials about spills causing a disaster simply due to connectivity below the surface is even more reason not to let this plan go ahead without more answers.
Some of the queries posed by park officials are the same, or similar, to those we have heard from the activists and local residents who turn out in droves simply for information about the pipeline. Most bear repeating. They include the history of pipelines in this kind of topography, exactly what chemicals will be moving through the area, gaining assurances that insufficient line segments will be replaced and having more studies done to find out how substances would travel in case of a spill.
Many Boyle County residents already have expressed these and other legitimate concerns about our own water supply and the safety of schools and homes within feet of the converted line. If those aren’t enough to spur an exhaustive and data rich analysis, perhaps the pleas of those charged with protecting one of our natural wonders will advance the cause.
These calls from this new front on the pipeline, along with comments already submitted through the federal process, should result in a full environmental study beyond the review the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is currently conducting.
The Advocate-Messenger, Danville