For Immediate Release, April 25, 2022
Perrin de Jong, Center for Biological Diversity, (828) 252-4646, email@example.com
Federal Officials Forced to Reexamine Kentucky Pipeline’s Threats to Endangered Bats
Conservationists’ Threat to Sue Over Ratepayer-Funded Giveaway to Jim Beam Prompted Agency’s Reconsideration
CEDAR GROVE, Ky.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it will return to the drawing board to ensure that a proposed methane gas pipeline will not jeopardize the survival of three imperiled bat species.
The move responds to two conservation groups filing a formal notice of intent to sue the agency and the Army Corps of Engineers for failing to protect the bats from harm threatened by the construction of the proposed Bullitt County Transmission Line.
Today’s announcement means that no construction may be completed on the pipeline until the Service consults with the Corps to ensure that the bats are not jeopardized by the project.
“Kentucky’s endangered bats can’t wait any longer for protection from habitat destruction, so this is an important step,” said Perrin de Jong, a staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Only committed citizen watchdogs can hold federal officials accountable to their duty to prevent the extinction of these magnificent creatures of the night sky.”
In February the Center and Kentucky Resources Council challenged the Service’s finding that the project will not jeopardize three bat species, as well as the Army Corps of Engineers’ Clean Water Act authorization for the pipeline.
The three species — Indiana bats, gray bats and northern long-eared bats — all rely on caves and other underground habitat for survival. Indiana bats and gray bats are listed as endangered, while the Service proposed recently to uplist the northern long-eared bat from threatened to endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
The proposed pipeline’s path in eastern Bullitt County is laced with abundant karst caves and sinkholes, making it likely that protected bats use the project area as habitat. Known sinkholes in the path of the pipeline also highlight the danger of a collapse rupturing the pipeline, resulting in a fireball that could damage nearby homes and their occupants. Numerous Kentucky pipelines — and their neighbors — have suffered a similar fate in recent years.
“We applaud the Service for recognizing the need to re-evaluate the pipeline’s impacts to endangered bat populations,” said Ashley Wilmes, director of the Kentucky Resources Council. “LG&E has repeatedly failed to address the full environmental impacts of this pipeline project — from bats to water quality to the safety of local residents.”
Under the Endangered Species Act, the Service is required to examine all potential impacts to listed bats that are caused by the pipeline's construction, and both the Service and the Corps are obligated to avoid jeopardizing the survival of endangered species.
Local residents repeatedly told the agencies that the proposed pipeline’s path is laced with caves and sinkholes. However, the Service based its initial “no jeopardy” finding for listed bats on the conclusion that no caves or sinkholes exist in the project area.
Beam Suntory, the owner of Jim Beam, owns a distillery in eastern Bullitt County that the proposed pipeline would serve. In 2015 Beam Suntory approached the local utility, Louisville Gas & Electric, about a new gas pipeline to support an expansion at its distillery. When Beam Suntory learned that the pipeline would cost the company $25 million, the company refused to pay for it.
In 2016 LG&E proposed to increase rates on local ratepayers to finance the pipeline. This proposal was approved by the Kentucky Public Service Commission in 2017. The pipeline is now projected to cost ratepayers $74.2 million.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
The Kentucky Resources Council combines smart policy and legal advocacy to protect the Commonwealth's natural resources and ensure environmental justice for Kentucky's most vulnerable people and communities.