Along the proposed route of its stalled Palmetto Pipeline, energy giant Kinder Morgan is now offering cash to some landowners to allow surveys on their property.
Effingham County resident Michael Maddox made such a deal recently. Maddox had fought with the pipeline company over the routing of the pipeline through the small eco-community he developed called Green Bridge Farm. Earlier this month, Kinder Morgan not only agreed to shift the route off his land, but, unprompted, also offered an undisclosed lump sum plus a dollar a linear foot for the inconvenience of surveying to verify his property line, he said.
“It was probably because I pitched a fit,” Maddox said. “The squeaky wheel gets the grease. I told them they couldn’t come back on my property until they rerouted the pipeline. They (still) had to survey my property line. They had to do that to make sure they didn’t damage any of my property.”
But not every squeaky wheel has gotten the same deal.
Mike Edgy was notified earlier in the year that his property was on the pipeline route, but he hasn’t heard much of anything lately.
“They haven’t offered me no money yet,” said Edgy, a Brantley County commissioner whose Glynn County land is in timber. Edgy has been an outspoken opponent of the pipeline.
In Screven County, Debo Boddiford hadn’t heard of pay-to-survey offers, either. She and most members of her extended family initially gave permission to survey but changed their minds as they learned more about the project.
In late May, Boddiford sent the company a letter asking it to send back the original signed form where she gave permission. She’s followed up with e-mails to no avail.
The Palmetto Pipeline would transport up to 7 million gallons a day of gasoline, diesel and ethanol from an existing pipeline in South Carolina through Georgia to Jacksonville, Fla. Kinder Morgan executives have estimated that the 210-mile route in Georgia would affect about 400 landowners.
In the spring, hundreds of Georgians protested the prospect of the company using eminent domain to acquire easements through those properties. In May, Georgia Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry denied the Houston-based company’s request for a certificate of public need, the first step in getting the authority to condemn property. The company has appealed that decision, and a hearing is expected in Fulton County Superior Court in November.
A Palmetto Products Pipeline supervisor made it clear in an
e-mail to Maddox that the “survey administration fee” he was offered would be made available to everyone on the route.
“Yes, we are talking with all the other landowners about the same arrangement,” Robert E. Walker wrote. “That does take time since there
are close to two thousand of them.”
Kinder Morgan spokeswoman Melissa Ruiz declined to verify that policy.
“Kinder Morgan’s policy is to treat all landowners fairly and with the utmost respect for their individual concerns and route recommendations along the Palmetto Pipeline,” Ruiz wrote in an e-mail response to the Savannah Morning News. “Each situation is handled on a case-by-case basis, and we treat all individual discussions and agreements as confidential out of respect for the landowners’ privacy.”
Environmental groups opposed to the pipeline criticized the pay-to-survey policy as a distraction.
“I think it’s just sad to see them throwing money around like money is going to make any problem go away. It’s not true,” said Emily Markesteyn, the Ogeechee Riverkeeper. “The potential threat of the pipeline is still very real. No amount of community donations or payments to landowners to get on their property is going to alleviate that.”
Savannah Riverkeeper Tonya Bonitatibus said the company seemed to be “scrambling to get back into people’s good graces.” Allowing a survey, or getting paid to allow one, does not waive a landowner’s right to ultimately reject the pipeline, she emphasized.
Up to four surveys, including ones for wetlands and archaeological finds, could be required for each property.
“People are negotiating already with Kinder Morgan,” Bonitatibus said. “If you happen to be one of those people and are comfortable negotiating with Kinder Morgan, at the very least make sure you’re compensated appropriately.”