Among those raising their voices against the proposed Palmetto Pipeline is the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce, an organization typically supportive of business endeavors.
In an April 28 letter to the Georgia Department of Transportation, Chamber Chairman Trey Cook urged Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry to deny Kinder Morgan’s request for a certificate of public convenience and necessity, which would give it the power of eminent domain to acquire pipeline right of way.
Cook’s letter cited a need for “absolute transparency and legitimacy” before any company is granted such a right.
“(W)e feel Kinder Morgan has not shown compelling evidence of the public convenience and necessity of this pipeline nor how the proposed pipeline will benefit Georgians,” Cook wrote.
Chamber president Bill Hubbard said Wednesday the question of proving need before being granted the right to condemn property was at the center of the chamber’s concerns.
“It’s premature to give up the property rights of citizens without knowing how those same citizens will benefit,” he said.
Kinder Morgan plans to build the new pipeline to bring gasoline, ethanol and diesel from the Gulf Coast and from South Carolina to
North Augusta, S.C., Savannah and Jacksonville. Its 210-mile proposed route in Georgia parallels the Savannah River, then heads south to Jacksonville.
A terminal is planned for south of Richmond Hill to serve the Savannah area with as much as 25,000 barrels a day of the pipeline’s 167,000 barrel daily capacity. The company applied on Feb. 13 to the DOT for a certificate of public convenience and necessity, the first of a two-step state process to authorize it to condemn property.
McMurry is expected to make a decision on the certificate May 19.
In its filings and at a series of well-attended company-run open houses and at one DOT-run public hearing, Kinder Morgan has suggested the pipeline would positively affect the Savannah and Jacksonville markets by promoting competition and possibly decreasing prices to consumers, though a pipeline company cannot control how much product goes to any market or at what price.
The pipeline would also provide a fuel supply during hurricanes and other inclement weather, Kinder Morgan Vice President Allen Fore has said. Other stated public benefits of the $1 billion project include 1,200 temporary construction jobs at its peak and an estimated 28 permanent full-time positions.
At an April 21 public hearing in Richmond Hill, Fore said the project would bring $12 million in taxes to Georgia, including about $5 million annually to local governments in the 12 counties the pipeline crosses.
Kinder Morgan has repeatedly stated that Savannah is the only major city in Georgia without access to a petroleum pipeline.
But the Chamber points out that Savannah is the only major Georgia city with a port. An estimated 25 percent of Savannah’s gasoline is shipped in, with the remainder coming by truck from pipeline terminals in Macon and North Augusta.
Cook’s letter requests “evidence that the existence of another pipeline will foster competition among existing suppliers and not force them out of the market” and asks for information on how the pipeline’s tiered pricing will benefit “our state and not just benefit Florida.”
The Palmetto Pipeline would terminate in Jacksonville, where gasoline brings a higher price to wholesalers.
The Chamber represents 2,200 members and more than 120,000 jobs. Government Affairs Director Ansley Thelkeld said the chamber’s letter had also been sent to Gov. Nathan Deal and state transportation board member Ann Purcell, who represents the 1st Congressional District at the Georgia DOT.
On the web
To read the entire letter from the Savannah Chamber, as well as other stories, documents and transcripts related to the pipeline, go to savannahnow.com/palmettopipeline.
If You Go
A second and final DOT hearing on the proposed Palmetto Pipeline will be 5-7 p.m. today at the Waynesboro Campus of Augusta Technical College, 216 Highway 24 South, Waynesboro.