The Savannah Riverkeeper says score one for property rights in Georgia when it comes to the proposed Palmetto Pipeline and the possible use of eminent domain.
A Fulton County Superior Court judge today ruled against Kinder Morgan (the company planning the pipeline.)
Kinder Morgan is proposing a 360 mile pipeline project through three states, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. The majority of the pipeline (220 miles) would run through Georgia.
Several months ago, the company appealed a decision from the Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry who had denied the company the right to use eminent domain along the pipeline route. That right would basically allow the private company the right to condemn private land if the Georgia property owners refused to grant easements.
McMurry said at the time that Kinder Morgan had not met the standards that would warrant it being able to condemn land in Georgia.
But Kinder Morgan appealed that decision to a Fulton county court saying that McMurry and the Georgia Department of Transportation had not followed the law.
The judge backed up the State DOT, not Kinder Morgan.
“This decision gives our landowners more ability to stand up for themselves because Kinder Morgan had been bullying landowners in my opinion,” says Savannah Riverkeeper Tonya Bonitatibus.
The loss of the the appeal comes as lawmakers in both Georgia and South Carolina re moving forward with bill to stop the use of eminent domain by private petroleum companies. In Georgia for example, HB 1036, a bill to impose to impost a moratorium on the use of eminent domain passed in a House committee last week and will now move on to the Senate.
In South Carolina, there is similar legislation being pursued.
“I think Kinder Morgan actually needs to start evaluating this project as a whole especially with the possibility of legislation in both states,” said Bonitatibus
However, Kinder Morgan responded with this email:While we are disappointed with the Court’s decision, we realized this outcome was a possibility given deference which the Court was required to give to the decision of the Georgia DOT, and we are currently reviewing the decision, its ramifications and our options. Over the past several months, we’ve been working with landowners and impacted stakeholders to address concerns and review recommendations, with the goal of constructing the pipeline to the satisfaction of all stakeholders. We’re pleased with the progress we have made to date and we are encouraged by the constructive feedback we are hearing from stakeholders regarding the project. Many landowners are positive about the project, and we believe the significant public benefits it will bring to the region (such as lower fuel prices, increased tax revenues, good paying skilled jobs and increased revenues at local establishments), combined with the prospect of getting tanker trucks off the road and more safely moving products underground, are beginning to resonate with area residents. Overall, the communities are embracing what this project will provide – more competition and a safer alternative to trucking for fuel transportation into these markets.
Bonitatibus continues to disagree with the company’s statements that people “are coming around.” She says just the opposite.