Jury Out On the Proposed 340 km Palmetto Petroleum Products Pipeline

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Jury Out On the Proposed 340 km Palmetto Petroleum Products Pipeline

Fri, 03/18/2016 - 10:52
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Palmetto Pipeline project (© 2015 Kinder Morgan)
Palmetto Pipeline project (© 2015 Kinder Morgan)

Kinder Morgan, sponsor of the proposed 340 km Palmetto Petroleum Products Pipeline to be built from South Carolina through the eastern part of Georgia into Florida, suffered another legislative setback this past week when the Georgia Senate denied the company the power to condemn property along the pipeline right-of-way, otherwise known as the right of eminent domain.

At the same time the Georgia Senate has seemingly kept the door to Palmetto open by adding a last-minute amendment to the ruling which allows the company to apply for environmental permits during a 13-month moratorium, in effect enabling Kinder Morgan to skirt the bill by piecemeal obtaining the necessary permits. Company officials have said it intends to build the pipeline without eminent domain by persuading landowners to sell access.

The evident loopholes in the body of legislation have prompted Georgian lawmakers shut them down: “What the intent of all this is to prohibit [Kinder Morgan] from moving forward with the pipeline until such time as there can be a complete study done by a study commission that’s outlined in the bill and recommendations made to next year’s term of the general assembly and, if appropriate, any action can be taken prior to them being able to move forward,” said Bill Hitchens, a Republican from Rincon, who is sponsoring the bill.

The general public mood on interstate petroleum pipelines soured last year after a gasoline pipeline leaked, spilling its contents in the pecan orchard of a state representative and contaminating his well. A planned extension of its route would have taken it through quail plantations and farmland of other prominent landowners, including Billy Morris, Chairman and CEO of Morris Communications, owner of the Savannah Morning News and Bluffton Today.

While noting these environmental concerns, House Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications Chairman Don Parsons warned against meddling with fuel shipping because the U.S. and Georgia economies depend on it: “It’s going to be necessary to have more pipeline distribution in this country,” said Parsons, R-Marietta. “We need to be careful about setting up any kind of restrictions or any kind of obstacles for pipeline distribution.”

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