Controversial Georgia Pipeline Project Suspended

Credit Molly Samuel / WABE
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A controversial pipeline proposed for the Georgia coast is now on hold.

The Palmetto Pipeline would have carried fuel from South Carolina, along the Savannah River and down the coast to Jacksonville, Florida.

The energy company Kinder Morgan wanted to use eminent domain to build the pipeline, but it faced powerful opposition in its bid to take private property, and the state of Georgia denied the eminent domain request.

Last week, the state Legislature passed a bill that would put a moratorium on all petroleum pipeline construction in the state. It also prohibited companies from pursuing permits to build projects once the moratorium was lifted.

Kinder Morgan posted on its website that it is suspending work on the Palmetto Pipeline, following that bill. The company would not comment on the decision. The statement reads, in part, “While this legislative action was disappointing, we remain committed to providing customized transportation solutions to our customers.”

“We were disappointed with the passage of the bill,” said Hunter Hopkins, executive director of the Georgia Petroleum Council. He represents the oil and gas industry in Georgia. He said his main concern was the moratorium on permits in the legislation.

“We just think as an industry it sets a bad precedent going forward that could in the future hinder other energy projects.”

The opposition to the pipeline project came from all sides. Gov. Nathan Deal last year said that he didn’t like how the project was being pursued. William Morris, founder of Morris News Service and publisher of the Augusta Chronicle, spoke out against it; the pipeline would have crossed some of his land.

In public hearings and at the state Capitol, environmentalists teamed up with private property rights advocates.

“I don’t call them nontraditional partners,” said Savannah Riverkeeper, Tonya Bonitatibus. “I call them the right ones.”

Bonitatibus said this announcement is one of a few recent wins for Georgia environmental groups. The Legislature dealt a setback to another proposed pipeline last week, the Sabal Trail pipeline, which would carry natural gas. And earlier this month, the federal government decided not to open up the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Georgia to offshore oil exploration.

“Just the last couple weeks, we have seen some very strong statements,” she said. “It kind of seems like Georgia has spoken pretty soundly.”