May 19, 2015
Atlanta, GA – The Georgia Department of Transportation has denied Kinder Morgan’s application for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. The certificate, if approved, would allow the company to use eminent domain to gain private land for the construction of their 360-mile petroleum pipeline.
The decision comes after months of meetings, public discussion, protests and pushback from concerned groups, which even prompted a statement from Governor Nathan Deal opposing the project. In a notice posted on the DOT website, Commissioner Russell McMurry made the following statement:
“After careful consideration of information in the application submitted by Kinder Morgan on behalf of Palmetto; numerous public comments submitted at seven (7) public meetings held by Palmetto; two (2) public hearings hosted by the Georgia DOT; and approximately 3,000 public comments submitted online and by mail to myself and the Utilities staff, the Department has determined that it will not issue a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. The basis for the decision is outlined in our correspondence to Palmetto Products Pipe Line LLC.
Jen Hilburn, Altamaha Riverkeeper, active partner in the Push Back the Pipeline Coalition, which strongly opposed the Palmetto Pipeline from the beginning, said this morning “This proposed pipeline would cross 5 of our major rivers, countless acres of wetlands, both public and private, and it left our coastline at risk for environmental disaster. We are pleased to that the DOT responsibly reviewed and considered whether there was a public need for a surplus supply of petroleum products and found that there was none. While we celebrate today, this step is likely just the beginning, and I don’t think we have seen the last of Kinder Morgan.”
What was our step in the fight?
Kinder Morgan’s proposed $1 billion dollar, 360 mile long Palmetto Pipeline will plough through 210 miles of Georgia from Belton, South Carolina to Jacksonville, Florida by way of Savannah. Its path includes running roughshod over incredibly sensitive environmental areas including freshwater wetlands, tidal marshes and all of our coastal rivers and tributaries, including running along the Savannah River and crossing the Ogeechee, Altamaha, Satilla and St. Mary’s River. These rivers are the lifeblood of our critical estuarine ecosystems and a fuel spill would cause spectacular environmental damage and ruin a coastal economy that depends on clean beaches, a multi-billion dollar fishery, and heavy industrial uses of surface water. A single day of a broken pipe carrying the proposed 167,000 barrels per day of fuel would be equivalent to 700 fuel transport trucks dumping their loads into the river that day.
To build this pipeline, Kinder Morgan will forcibly take private property in 12 Georgia counties through eminent domain. Kinder Morgan applied on Feb 13th for a permit through the Georgia Department of Transportation (GA DOT) for ‘public necessity and convenience’, otherwise known as the right to use eminent domain. The state has 90 days to deny the permit, otherwise it is automatically granted. While the landowner receives a small one-time payment, use of the property is severely limited and the owner will still have to pay all property taxes on it indefinitely.
Georgians are being asked to tolerate risks even though they will not receive the full benefits of the oil. Of the 167,000 barrels per day of product to be transported, KM promises that, at most, only 25,000 barrels per day will be delivered in Georgia – solely in the Savannah area. The Savannah area currently uses only 20,000 barrels per day which is already supplied by four other companies, so there is no need for another 25,000 barrels or another pipeline. KM admits that it cannot control where the shippers of the product, most likely Exxon/Mobil and Marathon, will deliver their product, so the promise of delivery in Georgia is an empty one. Gasoline prices are much higher in Jacksonville, the end point for this pipeline, so it’s more probable that Big Oil wants to actually ship all of the product to Jacksonville where it will reap the greatest profit, leaving no public benefit to Georgia.
KM’s safety record is one of the worst in the nation – it is responsible for more than one-half of all pipeline accidents in the U.S. since 2003 resulting in tens of millions of dollars in property damage/fines and deaths. For example, in December, 2014 an undetected pinhole-sized leak in their Plantation Pipeline in South Carolina leaked over 8,000 gallons of gas into a nearby neighborhood. Leaks like this occur and can put in danger the surface and groundwater that Georgians rely on, in addition to causing damage to private properties. Based on total miles, Georgia will be hit with 58% of the detrimental effects, including the danger of a catastrophic accident.