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Tuesday, May 19, 2015 - 10:43am

GDOT Says 'No' To Controversial Pipeline Project

The Georgia Department of Transportation has rejected an eminent domain request for a gas pipeline that would run through 11 counties along the Savannah River and the coast.

Kinder Morgan proposed building the Palmetto Pipeline, which would carry gasoline, diesel fuel and ethanol from South Carolina to Jacksonville, Florida. The company says the pipeline would help meet future demand for fuel.

“Georgia has experienced increased population growth, but less fuel consumption over the last few years,” GDOT Commissioner Russell McMurray wrote in his rejection letter. Citing federal data, McMurray says fuel consumption peaked in 2006. “An analysis of that data indicates the 2016 projection for fuel consumption is approximately 8% lower than the 2006 high, and the 2020 fuel consumption forecast is approximately 9% lower than 2006. Thus, the evidence reflects an overall downward trend in fuel consumption and the idea that the pipeline is needed to address current and future increased demands is simply not supported,” McMurray said. GDOT also says there is little evidence the Palmetto Pipeline would reduce fuel prices in the region.

"We are disappointed with the outcome of our proceedings with the Georgia DOT," Kinder Morgan Products Pipeline President Ron McClain said in a statement. "We continue to believe in the viability of the project and its economic benefits to the Southeast region and Georgia in particular, and we plan to pursue all available options to move forward with the project."

Kinder Morgan has 30 days to appeal the state’s decision.

The project met fierce resistance from residents in the Augusta area and along the coast. Many cited environmental concerns and Kinder Morgan’s desire to use eminent domain to build the pipeline.

KC Allan, an organizer with the environmental coalition Push Back the Pipeline, says the hundreds of coastal Georgia residents who attended protests and public hearings played an important role in the process.

"They voted with their presence," Allan says. "I think we’re not seeing the last of this, and I think pipeline companies are going to have a harder and harder job...elsewhere."

Gov. Nathan Deal also spoke out against it, but said the matter could end up in court.

“We're going to object from the state level and I think that process will then go to the courts for a judge to decide," Deal said during an appearance in Augusta on May 7.

Click here to read GDOT's decision [PDF]

GPB's Sarah McCammon contributed to this story.