A U.S. energy corporation is challenging a decision that threatens to stop the company’s planned $1 billion petroleum pipeline through Georgia and South Carolina.
Kinder Morgan Inc., as expected, appealed Wednesday the Georgia Department of Transportation ruling against the pipeline, arguing that the May 18 decision was unfair, poorly considered and illegal.
The Georgia Department of Transportation denied the company’s request for the pipeline after determining that the pipe didn’t serve a public need in the Peach State. The company appealed to Superior Court in Atlanta, saying the pipe does serve a public need.
While the decision was made in Georgia, the DOT ruling also affects South Carolina and Florida. The pipeline would be a spur from a terminal in Upstate South Carolina that already carries petroleum products from the Gulf Coast to the Northeast. The new pipeline would run south from Belton through six western South Carolina counties and cross into Georgia below North Augusta. It would then travel through central and south Georgia to Jacksonville, Fla.
If the pipeline can’t go forward in Georgia, the entire project is jeopardized. Wednesday’s appeal was expected considering the importance of the project to Kinder Morgan, which owns or operates 80,000 miles of pipelines in the United States. Kinder Morgan says it is the largest independent transporter of petroleum products in the United States. The new pipeline would carry about 150,000 barrels of refined petroleum products daily.
The company says the pipeline is needed to move petroleum to Augusta and Savannah, but landowners and environmentalists have fought the project. Some people don’t want their land condemned, while environmentalists say the oil pipeline is subject to spills that could ruin groundwater and hurt the already stressed Savannah River.
In its appeal, Kinder Morgan said the pipeline is the safest way to transport gasoline.
and could help the environment by reducing the amount of truck traffic now hauling gasoline to parts of Georgia. The company also said it would enrich Georgia communities, as landowners are paid for their property, while bringing $4.5 million annually to Georgia in tax revenues.
The company says the Georgia DOT’s decision weighed many comments against the project, but did not give Kinder Morgan a proper chance to respond. Much of the appeal claims that Kinder Morgan was treated unfairly.
“We believe this project serves the best interests of consumers in the state of Georgia and the Southeast region,” Kinder Morgan spokeswoman Melissa Ruiz said in a prepared statement.
“We and our shippers remain committed to bringing an alternate source of supply to these markets, and we will continue to make every effort to reach mutually beneficial agreements with stakeholders.”
Savannah Riverkeeper Tonya Bonitatibus, one of the chief opponents of the Kinder Morgan pipe, was not available for comment. But K.C. Allan, coordinator of the grassroots group Push Back the Pipeline, said Thursday the appeal is disappointing.
“I do think this is just another step in what could potentially be a much longer fight,’’ Allan, of Savannah, said, noting that Kinder Morgan’s appeal focuses on “blaming the state government for their failure to establish their own case. It is a frivolous lawsuit and a waste of taxpayer dollars to require the government to defend this decision.’’
Unlike in South Carolina, Georgia oversees the need for oil pipelines. South Carolina has no such process, but a bill has been filed in the General Assembly to establish one.