Opponents of a proposed petroleum pipeline are lining up in advance of a public hearing set for 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Richmond Hill City Center.
Environmental groups are calling for a rally at noon Saturday at Forsyth Park in Savannah and could turn out in force at Tuesday’s meeting, which is the only one being held by the Georgia Department of Transportation.
Some have asked the DOT to add a second public hearing in the Augusta area to give residents there an opportunity to raise concerns.
The Ogeechee Riverkeeper is among a number of such organizations speaking out against plans by energy giant Kinder Morgan to build a 360-mile pipeline from South Carolina to Jacksonville, Florida. The riverkeeper recently announced the hiring of a project coordinator, K.C. Allan, whose role is “coordinating and supporting regional stakeholders,” in the effort to dissuade the state from approving the project.
Also opposed is local environmentalist Roy Hubbard, a retired Army Green Beret who operates an ecological-tour service. Hubbard questions Kinder Morgan’s aims and plans.
“Their storyline is an insult to the intelligence of the people of Georgia,” Hubbard said.
“Kinder Morgan has made any number of statements that have proven to be untrue,” Hubbard added. “They have in no way qualified their intent to damage hundreds of acres of Georgia wetlands, marshes, river basins and endanger our rivers as necessary to the public need.”
Supporters of the pipeline, which will have the capacity to move 167,000 barrels of fuel a day, point to a potential for lower local gas prices, increases to local tax bases and the promise of jobs. Kinder Morgan, a Texas-based company, has said it will spend about $1 billion on the project and employ about 1,200 people to build the pipeline. With a 25,000-gallon terminal apparently slated for a site near Richmond Hill and pump stations along the pipeline route, there also are about 28 permanent jobs on the table if the project gets the go-ahead, according to information the company has provided at recent meetings it has held in surrounding communities such as Hinesville and in Effingham County.
The company said much of the pipeline will run along existing utility easements, and supporters of the project say it is a safer way of transporting petroleum products than by rail or truck. If the pipeline gets permitted, work could start in 2016 and finish in 2017.
But not all opponents to the project raise objections based on the harm the pipeline could do to the environment.
The DOT is involved because of Kinder Morgan’s application for a certificate of public convenience and necessity, which would allow it to use eminent domain and seize land. Objections have been raised by opponents over that aspect of the project.
And the Colonial Group, the parent company of Colonial Oil, Colonial Terminals and Enmark, announced last week that more than 200 of its workers could lose their jobs if the pipeline is approved.
“At issue are trucking, port-related and U.S. Merchant Marine jobs that currently deliver fuel to Savannah,” the company said in a news release.
It also noted that Kinder Morgan could use its pipeline to favor larger refineries, claiming the company has different “volume-related rate structures” that are not public and could be used to target smaller refineries.
Ryan Chandler, vice president of business development at Colonial, said the public has a right to know more.
“If Kinder Morgan wants public power to take private land, Georgians deserve to know the basic details necessary to establish public need,” he said. “Other pipelines, including those currently serving Georgia, make their tariffs and costs publicly available. Kinder Morgan needs to share its cost and shippers’ names with the public.”
Kinder Morgan has said that information is confidential. It also hasn’t said exactly where it will run the pipeline. About seven miles are expected to run through Bryan County if the pipeline is approved.