By Walter Jones –
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 today on its website that it has “suspended further work” on the project.
It blames 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, S.C. 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 website 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 email.
Its plan upset property owners along the 300-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 owners 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.