Louisville Gas and Electric Co. (LG&E) has denied new and expanded natural gas service to more than 60 homes and businesses in Bullitt County, KY, and said more customers are likely to face a similar situation until it can build a 12-mile pipeline to get additional supplies into the area. 

The Bullitt County Pipeline project, which would extend the company’s system and expand capacity in the region, was approved by the Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) in 2017. The company has been unable to acquire easements along the proposed route for 11 remaining properties, including two owned by the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest.

Bernheim filed a complaint with the PSC last month asking it to toss the project’s certificate, arguing that LG&E has not been transparent with the public about the pipeline. 

LG&E said Bernheim purchased the property in question in late 2018 after the project was approved. The company also said the land it wants to cross represents a small fraction of the forest’s 16,000 acres, or only 0.028%, and is “far removed” from any recreational areas. 

Bernheim, which noted in filings with the PSC that LG&E has threatened it with eminent domain, said the tracts are subject to a conservation easement and deed restrictions that prohibit the transfer of property for commercial uses.

The feud has spilled over, with state Attorney General Andy Beshear filing to intervene over public safety concerns, which the PSC has granted. He also wanted the scope of the case expanded after an unrelated explosion last month on a portion of the much larger Texas Eastern Transmission system farther south in Lincoln County, KY, which was denied. More than 7,000 people have also signed a petition to require a full environmental assessment for the project.  

LG&E, a PPL Corp. subsidiary that serves 328,000 gas customers in Louisville and 16 surrounding counties, said it has no choice but to suspend new service since the existing pipeline serving Bullitt County is at capacity. 

The company operates 4,337 miles of natural gas distribution pipeline, 387 miles of transmission line and five storage fields. Annual throughput on its system is about 44 Bcf, according to documents filed with the PSC. 

LG&E also warned Tuesday that other customers should be prepared for service interruptions if an outage occurs, “since there is no current backup to the existing distribution system which began in the 1960s.” The situation reflects another in New York, where earlier this year Consolidated Edison Co. imposed a moratorium on new gas service in New York City suburbs, a move that was followed by National Grid in the city, where thousands have been denied new service. The utilities have cited a supply shortage because of a lack of natural gas infrastructure.