Kinder Morgan to stop work on Palmetto Pipeline

Texas-based pipeline company Kinder Morgan has “suspended further work” on a plan to build a 360-mile pipeline.



The Texas-based company planning to build a $1 billion pipeline to carry gasoline and diesel fuel from Belton, S.C., to Jacksonville, Fla., announced Wednesday it has “suspended further work” on the project.

A statement on its Web site blamed action by the Georgia General Assembly, which passed legislation this month keeping the company from seeking environmental permits or other licenses until July 2017. Supporters of the moratorium bill said it was aimed at stopping the pipeline.

Kinder Morgan is one of the nation’s largest gasoline-pipeline companies and already has miles of pipe in Georgia serving terminals in Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Columbus and North Augusta. And it had sold contracts to transport fuel in the pipe once it was built and operating.

Its statement expressed frustration but left open whether the project would be restarted later.

“Kinder Morgan has suspended further work on the Palmetto Pipeline project, following the unfavorable action by the Georgia legislature regarding eminent-domain authority and permitting restrictions for petroleum pipelines,” the Web site said. “While this legislative action was disappointing, we remain committed to providing customized transportation solutions to our customers.”

Questions sent to the company’s spokeswoman, Melissa Ruiz, resulted in no additional information.

“I’m afraid the statement on our site is all I have to share at this time,” she said in an e-mail.

Kinder Morgan’s pipeline plan upset many Georgia property owners along the 360-mile path. It was forced to negotiate a price with each one when Georgia’s transportation commissioner rejected the company’s request for power to seize rights of way in court, with a judge deciding the compensation, a process known as eminent domain.

After a judge hearing the company’s appeal of the eminent-domain rejection ruled against Kinder Morgan, corporate officials said the pipeline would be built without seizures.

When the Legislature took up the moratorium bill, it became one of the most heavily lobbied issues of the 2016 session. Environmentalists and property owner groups worked side by side with Kinder Morgan’s competitors to pass the measure.

Complicating the matter was a different pipeline proposal to carry natural gas across southwest Georgia where property owners were also upset. Lawmakers admitted being confused about the details of the two proposals but knew many groups didn’t like either.

Environmental groups celebrated Kinder Morgan’s announcement but sought assurances the project would not be revived.

“Kinder Morgan, however, should do the right thing and announce that it is outright canceling this unnecessary project rather than simply suspending it,” said Steve Caley, legal director for GreenLaw.

The environmental groups fought similar battles against Kinder Morgan in the South Carolina Legislature, as well as in Georgia. In both, they are seeking an overhaul of the procedures for allowing petroleum pipeline construction.

“We’ve succeeded in stopping a bad project and need to continue to make sure that we close the discovered loopholes in both states’ laws to protect our citizens and their rights,” said Tonya Bonitatibus, an advocate for the Savannah Riverkeeper organization and spokeswoman for the Push Back the Pipeline coalition.

Georgia’s moratorium bill, which Gov. Nathan Deal has until May 3 to sign, would create a citizens’ commission to study the state’s existing laws and regulatory procedures and make recommendations for improvement. The South Carolina bill passed the House of Representatives there and is awaiting action in the Senate.

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