The public’s outcry in opposition to the Palmetto Pipeline has been clear. Voters don’t want it and don’t think it is needed. And the public doesn’t trust the company that wants to build it.
Plus, Kinder Morgan, the company behind the proposed pipeline, has not made a sufficient case that the 360-mile pipeline from Belton, South Carolina, to Jacksonville, Florida, should be built.
We clearly don’t need it. Gas prices in the region are consistently lower than the national average, which indicates that our supply and demand are in good balance.
Indications are that the vast majority of the petroleum flowing through the pipeline would not be for Georgia consumption anyway, but for Florida. Yes, there are three terminals planned — in North Augusta, South Carolina; South Bryan; and Jacksonville — and the Bryan County terminal represents an estimated investment in our area of $60 million to $70 million, Kinder Morgan officials told the Development Authority of Bryan County last month.
But that South Bryan terminal will employ exactly four people, the company says, once it’s in operation. Kinder Morgan says its pipeline will increase competition in the region. But as even it concedes in a note on its “frequently asked questions” Web page, “Palmetto will not own the product transported in the pipeline and will not set the price of gas at the pump, and therefore has no ability to raise or lower gas prices.”
Kinder Morgan has not exactly proved itself to be trustworthy in its efforts to push the pipeline into our region. Perhaps the most-offensive, most-arrogant note was struck by one of its contracted surveyors, cited for trespassing on a Screven County farm. According to media reports, one surveyor told a Screven County deputy: “You can’t stop the pipeline. They have enough money to push the pipeline right through the county.”
And despite a Kinder Morgan spokeswoman’s protestations to the contrary, these surveyors didn’t “accidentally” end up on the private property. No, they went 1.7 miles onto the property. Oops. Uh-huh.
Kinder Morgan held several open houses and tried to disguise them as official Georgia Department of Transportation public hearings until they were caught in their deception. Only then did GDOT schedule one hearing, April 21 in Richmond Hill, and then a second, May 7 in Waynesboro. Both were packed with hundreds of people, nearly all of whom were opposed to the pipeline. This deception by Kinder Morgan hardly inspires trust.
As we and several other media outlets recently reported, the very pipeline the Palmetto would tie into, the Plantation Pipeline in Belton, sprang a leak in December. So why did word of this 250,000-gallon leak not get out until just a couple of weeks ago, despite the fact that Kinder Morgan’s plans to construct the pipeline — 210 miles of which will pass through Georgia, including 11 miles through Bryan County — have been public for months?
Kinder Morgan spokeswoman Melissa Ruiz told the News that the leak was caused by a sleeve failure, a sleeve that dates to 1979. This prompted the company to inspect all the other sleeves along the Plantation Pipeline. So it took a 250,000-gallon-plus leak that happened more than 35 years after the pipeline was constructed for the company to inspect its sleeves? This hardly inspires confidence in the quality of its maintenance and upkeep.
This leak has done enough damage in Upstate South Carolina. Imagine the same thing happening in the environmentally sensitive wetlands and salt marshes that make up a good part of our area. These marshes are part of what makes coastal Georgia special. We do not want to see these areas damaged, especially by a project as unnecessary as the Palmetto Pipeline.
And we haven’t even mentioned the most-offensive part of this proposal to many Georgians: eminent domain. Such a drastic measure is normally reserved for governmental entities for the purpose of extending roads or other needed infrastructure. If Kinder Morgan receives a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from GDOT, a private company will have that same right. And while the company insists that eminent domain is a last resort, that it seeks to negotiate access to land with property owners, again, we are hardly confident after that Screven County trespassing incident.
You can make your opinion known to the one person who will decide whether or not Kinder Morgan will be able to invoke eminent domain to build its pipeline: DOT Commissioner Russell McMurry.
Public comments must be received by Friday. We encourage you to email your comments to Georgia State Utilities Engineer Lee Upkins at firstname.lastname@example.org, and McMurry at email@example.com.
Given the public’s opposition to the project, it will be interesting to see where our members of Congress and other elected officials weigh in on this issue.
Hopefully, McMurry will make the right decision for Georgia and deny this certificate, which is neither convenient nor necessary for coastal Georgia.