Fight over Bernheim Forest pipeline rages on


Michelle Quan

Families gather to express why they stand up for Bernheim on KSEC’s whiteboards display.

Brennan Eberwine and Michelle Quan

Community members gathered at All Peoples on Brownsboro Road to hear speakers talk about the proposed pipeline that would run through Bernheim Forest.

The Louisville Gas & Electric company (LG&E) hopes to install a 12-mile pipeline that would pump hydrocarbons through Bullitt County. The pipeline would specifically run through the Cedar Grove Wildlife Corridor of Bernheim which houses endangered species. LG&E claims the pipeline would have a minuscule environmental impact on Bernheim, running adjacent to a power line.

Supporters of the Save Bernheim movement dispute this claim, saying the pipe poses the risk of polluting underground waterways that would be irreversible. The forest holds multiple endangered and rare bats and snails.

Manual’s student newsmagazine “On the Record” did an investigation in 2020 into the fight over Bernheim’s land, finding the pipeline was in a myriad of legal battles surrounding the easement of the corridor and the legality of LG&E’s proposals. That fight still rages on with LG&E going to court specifically to condemn the land for the pipeline. Director of Conservation at Bernheim Andrew Berry and Dr. Mark Wourms estimate the condemnation case to take one to four days, and claim this is just the beginning of many more legal disputes to come.

Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest was founded in 1926 by German immigrant Isaac Bernheim to provide people with a place to connect with nature. 93 years later, the forest now boasts over 350,000 visitors a year and serves as a habitat for thousands of species.

The 16,000-acre forest has faced a few threats to its land conservation in recent years, including a highway bypass that would’ve run through Bernheim that was ultimately defeated. Beyond that, development surrounding the forest has rapidly increased as the population of Central Kentucky balloons. That’s partly why LG&E wants to build a new pipeline, as the current pipeline that serves Bullitt County has reached capacity. But Berry says the pipeline going through Bernheim poses too great a cost.

“Bernheim doesn’t want to stand in the way of growth, we just want conservation to keep up pace with growth,” Berry said.

Speakers at the panel also talked about the need for greater commitments to conservation and transitioning to clean energy as projections from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change grow increasingly dire. 

Professor Rob Kingsolver from Bellarmine University’s Environmental Studies department focused less on the ecological effects and more on the lives of future generations, echoed by numerous “mhm’s” from the elderly-dominated crowd. Followed by Kenyetta Johnson of youth-led Kentucky Student Environmental Youth Coalition, the panel advocated for the union of diverse age groups across the nation to resist pipelines in forests like Bernheim.

Bernheim will go to court with LG&E on Jan. 10, 2023 but the fight is likely to continue for many years with several organizations also suing, reflecting global actions for environmental protection.