In a decision that may ultimately affect the Savannah real estate market, the Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Transportation, Russell McMurry, denied the application by energy company Kinder Morgan for a public needs certificate. Without the certificate, the company will not be able to condemn the land along a 210 mile area where they were planning to lay the Palmetto Pipeline. McMurry released a written statement saying that they had considered the application by Kinder Morgan carefully, as well as comments from the public. These comments were submitted via the Internet, via mail and via several public meetings and two public hearings. Most likely due to the strong opposition from those in the area, McMurry denied the application to Kinder Morgan.
The situation probably isn’t over, however, as the company may appeal the decision. If they do, there’s likely to be more area protests as well. The project would have been worth $1 billion and was planned to carry various fuel products such as gas and diesel from the Gulf Coast and South Carolina to Savannah, as well as Augusta and Jacksonville. It would have gone through a dozen counties in Georgia along the Savannah river and spanning around 600 private land tracts. Kinder Morgan needed the needs certificate in order to apply for an environmental assessment to the proposed route. That would have been the second piece in the puzzle allowing them to have eminent domain.
The project would have undoubtedly created a good amount of jobs and possibly triggered moves from workers out of town. Already more Savannah houses for sale have hit the market due to job growth from the port expansion, but the pipeline would have likely led to more Savannah homes for sale due to out-of-area workers coming in to work on the pipeline. Alternatively, residents opposing the pipeline may have also triggered more Savannah homes for sale as they sought to move out of the area.
McMurry had to consider the question of whether the pipeline presented an obvious need to the community. Because of the area opposition, McMurry came to the opposite conclusion. The law in Georgia allows Kinder Morgan to appeal the decision in 30 days to a superior court. Previously, the company’s vice president has said that they would do exactly that if it was denied. The company said that they would pursue every option to keep the project moving forward.
Even though the pipeline could potentially benefit the Savannah real estate market, opponents were somewhat optimistic about the decision. They said that they still intended to put forth as much effort as possible to make their voices heard if Kinder Morgan does indeed appeal.
Part of the problem residents of the area have with the pipeline is that it would go through both private and public land in the Savannah area and could require eminent domain in cases where property owners won’t sell the company a 50 foot permanent easement. This is one of the reasons why either result could end up in more Savannah houses for sale, whether for jobs or disgruntled residents. The eminent domain is the primary source of conflict. Both conservatives and progressives are agreeing on this one, not liking the idea of a for-profit company receiving eminent domain.
Roughly 75 percent of the fuel supply in the Savannah market comes through truck transport and two other pipelines. Kinder Morgan attempted to say that it was the only major Georgia city to not have a pipeline for petroleum, however, they failed to mention that it is the only major Georgia city that has a marine port. With regards to the local job market, the company said it would hire contractors for the pipeline, but added that these firms usually hire local labor to fill out their crews.
So it remains to be seen whether the Palmetto Pipeline will go forward or not. The local opposition is strong enough that Kinder Morgan may not have enough sway. The Savannah real estate market continues to see gains through other local growth.