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Environmental groups seek to intervene in Kinder Morgan pipeline lawsuit
Utility says GDOT infringed on rights with denial
Pipeline lead Web
Opponents of the proposed Palmetto Pipeline Project waved signs outside the Richmond Hill City Center prior to a public hearing sponsored by the Georgia Department of Transportation in April. - photo by JEFF WHITTEN/Bryan County News/file

An environmental-law firm has filed a “motion to intervene” in a lawsuit filed by Texas energy company Kinder Morgan, which is seeking to build a 360-mile petroleum pipeline from Belton, South Carolina, to Jacksonville, Florida.

GreenLaw, based in Atlanta, filed the motion July 28 in Fulton County Superior Court on behalf of several environmental organizations, including the Ogeechee Riverkeeper, Savannah Riverkeeper and Center for a Sustainable Coast.

If ultimately approved, 210 miles of the Palmetto Pipeline would be built in Georgia, including dozens of miles in Screven, Effingham and Bryan Counties. South Bryan also would house a terminal with six to eight tanks, some of which could hold as much as 100,000 barrels of oil and that would move up to 25,000 barrels of fuel products per day.

The motion claims that state law gives these groups “an unconditional right to intervene,” and the groups say that not being allowed to intervene “may as a practical matter impair or impede their ability to protect” their interest — in this case, the environment of coastal Georgia.

In May, the Georgia Department of Transportation denied a certificate of public convenience and necessity, which is required for the pipeline to be built. Palmetto Products Pipe Line LLC, which is owned by Kinder Morgan, filed an appeal in Fulton County Superior Court in June, stating in part that the GDOT’s decision infringed on the utility’s rights by violating state law, that the GDOT exceeded its statutory authority, that the decision was “clearly erroneous” based on “substantial evidence on the whole record,” that it was “arbitrary or capricious” and that the GDOT “unreasonably withheld” the certificate.

“In its motion for intervention on behalf of the Savannah, Ogeechee, Altamaha and Satilla riverkeepers and the Center for a Sustainable Coast, GreenLaw is seeking the right of these groups to be parties to Palmetto’s appeal to insure that their interests are adequately protected,” said Steve Caley, GreenLaw’s legal director, in an emailed statement to the Bryan County News. “Palmetto’s proposed pipeline, if approved, would run roughshod through 210 miles of largely pristine Georgia land without any public necessity, public use or public good, which is required in order to use the draconian remedy of eminent domain — a remedy that Palmetto seeks in this case.”  

Melissa Ruiz, the manager of corporate communications for Kinder Morgan, said Tuesday in an email response that the company is “not commenting on the intervenors or any part of the judicial proceedings related to the appeal.”

The certificate is needed to allow Kinder Morgan to invoke eminent domain to pass the pipeline through property whose owners do not want to negotiate, or do not accept a negotiated offer, for compensation in exchange for the right of way to extend the petroleum pipeline.

The intervenors represented in the motion are the two local riverkeepers, plus the Altamaha Riverkeeper and Satilla Riverkeeper.

"We have every hope that this will be a successful intervention," said Tonya Bonitatibus, the Savannah Riverkeeper, in a news release issued Monday. "We represent the citizens of our watershed whose voices have not been heard in the appeal, and look forward to working with state officials to protect Georgians from this abuse of eminent domain." 



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