Judge Sides With State In Ga. Pipeline Eminent Domain Case

Most people at a public hearing in Waynesboro, GA in May, 2015, opposed the use of eminent domain to build the Palmetto Pipeline.
Most people at a public hearing in Waynesboro, GA in May, 2015, opposed the use of eminent domain to build the Palmetto Pipeline.
Credit Molly Samuel / WABE
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A fuel pipeline that would travel the length of the Georgia coast has hit another roadblock. On Monday, a judge in Atlanta ruled that the company that wants to built it, Palmetto Products Pipe Line, cannot use eminent domain.

The company, which is a subsidiary of the energy giant Kinder Morgan, wants to build the 360-mile pipeline from Belton, South Carolina to Jacksonville, Florida.

Last May, the head of the Georgia Department of Transportation denied the Palmetto’s request to use eminent domain, saying that the pipeline did not “constitute a public convenience and necessity.” The company asked for a review of that decision. Now, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Esmond Adams has sided with the state.

“Palmetto has not proffered any evidence nor identified a different procedure that would have resulted in a different outcome,” Adams wrote in her decision.

“While we are disappointed with the Court’s decision, we realized this outcome was a possibility,” said Kinder Morgan spokeswoman Melissa Ruiz. “Over the past several months, we’ve been working with landowners and impacted stakeholders to address concerns and review recommendations, with the goal of constructing the pipeline to the satisfaction of all stakeholders.”

Without eminent domain, the pipeline could still be built. Kinder Morgan would have to get permission from every landowner whose land it would cross.

Environmentalists are treating the decision as a victory.

“[The pipeline] would have devastating environmental impacts,” said attorney Steve Caley, legal director at the Atlanta firm GreenLaw, which was involved in the case. “What this decision basically says is that Palmetto Pipeline could not establish a public need that would justify the right of a private company to take private property for private profit.”

Meanwhile, a bill is making its way through the Georgia legislature that would put a temporary moratorium on using eminent domain for all petroleum pipelines and create a state commission to study the issue. That bill passed the House on Monday.

Correction: An earlier version of this story reported the date of the ruling as Tuesday. The ruling actually occurred on Monday, February 29.