Pipeline project suspended in South Carolina, Georgia

Kinder Morgan’s petroleum pipeline would have run through this Aiken County swamp
Kinder Morgan’s petroleum pipeline would have run through this Aiken County swamp

COLUMBIA, SC -- A national energy company says it is suspending work on a proposed pipeline through South Carolina and Georgia that has riled landowners worried about losing their property and environmentalists who fear petroleum spills along the Savannah River.

Kinder Morgan Inc., of Houston, Texas, announced the suspension on its website. Company officials had little to say about the suspension, but the notice said the project halt results from action taken recently in the Georgia Legislature.

Georgia lawmakers temporarily banned allowing companies to condemn land for projects such as the Kinder Morgan pipeline. Meanwhile, South Carolina lawmakers are working on a bill that would prevent private, unregulated pipeline companies from condemning land in the Palmetto State.

Spokeswoman Melissa Ruiz said the project is suspended in both states.

The Savannah Riverkeeper and other project opponents praised Kinder Morgan’s decision, but urged the company to cancel the pipeline altogether.

“This was a bad project and, certainly, shouldn’t be allowed,’’ Riverkeeper Tonya Bonitatibus said Wednesday night.

The $1 billion petroleum pipeline was proposed to run from a terminal in the Upstate town of Belton and extend through six South Carolina counties, including national forest land. It was to cross the Savannah River near Jackson in Aiken County. The project, dubbed the Palmetto Pipeline, was to be a spur from a main petroleum pipeline from the Gulf Coast. The 360-mile long Kinder Morgan project would end in Jacksonville, Fla.

Perhaps the biggest issue has been the number of landowners along the route concerned about Kinder Morgan trying to condemn their property if they didn’t want to sell for the pipeline. Some property owners already have pipelines from other companies running through their land and don’t want more intrusion.

“None of us would want to lose our land under circumstances like this,’’ S.C. Rep. Bill Hixon, R-Aiken, said, adding that “a majority of my constituents in Aiken and Edgefield counties are glad they are suspending’’ the pipeline.

Project boosters said the pipeline would be a safer and more efficient way to transport fuel, but critics said pipelines are prone to leaks that could foul the environment. Kinder Morgan already has had a substantial spill from existing operations in Anderson County near the Belton site.