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Colonial Pipeline Company Eyes Expansion After Spills

Alpharetta-based Colonial Pipeline Company business development manager Dan Gardner speaks to legislators on the petroleum pipeline study committee.
Alpharetta-based Colonial Pipeline Company business development manager Dan Gardner speaks to legislators on the petroleum pipeline study committee.
Credit Johnny Kauffman / WABE
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A business development manager for the Alpharetta-based Colonial Pipeline Company told a Georgia legislative committee Thursday it continues to consider expansion following two incidents that spilled gas in a rural parts of Alabama.

“Demand for our services exceed supply. We’ve been full for going on 5 years now. We’re constantly looking at ways to expand.” said Don Gardner. “Shippers certainly want us to and we try to.”

Following the spills, and subsequent shutdowns of the pipelines, gas prices jumped around the South. The Colonial estimates its line from Houston to New Jersey deliveries 40 percent of the East Coast’s supply. 

But proposals for new pipelines in Georgia, and probably anywhere in the country, are likely to get caught in a debate over property rights that has united conservative Republicans and environmentalists here.

Effingham County Rep. Bill Hitchens chairs the committee. He said his constituents are concerned about private companies taking over their land to build new pipelines. He was behind a moratorium on the practice passed by the legislature this year. It ends next summer.

“Most of them just think it’s wrong that some company that wants to make a lot of money can come and take their property away and put something on there that may really affect them very negatively in the future, or their children or grandchildren,” said Hitchens.

The state recently blocked construction of a pipeline that would have run near the coast.

Hitchens says he expects new measures on pipelines during the legislative session next year. Any bill reflecting the work of the committee is likely to have priority. Hitchens appears focused on property rights.

“Eminent domain, if that’s stopped, it stops all the other issues. I think that’s what citizens are most concerned about is their property. The others are subsequent, you know, environmental issues,” said Hitchens.

Environmental lawyers and activists at the meeting joined the chorus of concerns over property rights, noting the potential ground water pollution, physical danger and long term loss of property value that can result from a spill or even relatively small leak. 

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