Pipeline company Kinder Morgan has donated $30,000 to the McIntosh County Schools to boost athletic programs at the county’s only public high school, McIntosh County Academy.
School superintendant John Barge on Friday said the money would be used to replace uniforms, buy equipment and fund travel to competitions.
“For 12 straight years we’ve had cuts to funding to schools across Georgia,” Barge said. “In small, rural communities the cuts have been more painful because we don’t have a large tax base to make up the difference. Our athletic program is the one that’s felt the pain.”
The donation comes as the Houston-based company continues its legal battle to build a proposed $1 billion petroleum pipeline through Georgia.
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. Throughout the spring, hundreds of Georgians protested the prospect of the company using eminent domain to acquire easements through some of the nearly 400 private properties it would cross in the state. In May, Georgia DOT Commissioner Russell McMurry denied the company’s request for a certificate of public need, the first step needed to get the authority to condemn property. The company has appealed that decision, and the litigation is ongoing.
Barge is unconcerned about the donor.
“I’m aware of the pipeline and all that stuff,” he said. “I own property in north Georgia that has a pipeline on it. The folks that own that pipeline are great. I personally don’t have that huge an issue with it. Our system is hurting, and we need the corporations to help us. We need the help; I appreciate it.”
Altamaha Riverkeeper Jen Hilburn, who opposes the pipeline, said donations might ingratiate the company with some in the community, but won’t change the facts.
“It doesn’t prove a public need or secure that the environment will be protected in any way,” she said. “Just throwing money at it doesn’t change the law.”
McIntosh County Schools serve 1,570 students in pre-K through 12th grade.
“We’re pleased to be able to contribute to the McIntosh County Academy athletics program and hopefully make a difference in the lives of student athletes,” said Kinder Morgan Vice President Allen Fore in a prepared statement. “However, in a community the size of Darien, athletics touches everyone’s lives, not just the students.”
The proposed Palmetto Pipeline would run through 17 miles of McIntosh County, which did not appear to be a trouble spot for the project. Its currently planned route would take it along an existing Georgia Power transmission line easement that already accommodates Kinder Morgan’s Cypress natural gas pipeline. The new pipeline would run through 14 properties, mostly large agricultural holdings, though two of the parcels are state-owned.
Earlier this week, Kinder Morgan donated $3,000 to North Augusta (S.C.) High School roboticsteam, according to the company’s Facebook page. In June the company donated $20,000 to an anti-littering campaign in Savannah.