EVANS, Ga. (WJBF) – Concerns about petroleum pipelines being placed in the Peach State will be considered as a state committee decides whether to strengthen eminent domain rules for oil companies. A lot of people came out against eminent domain after the Palmetto Pipeline project launched by Kinder Morgan. Some land owners expressed during a meeting at the Columbia County Government Center that their land has been in their families for hundreds of years. Others said they were met with surveyors showing up on their property uninvited and that is why they don’t want a pipeline running through their yard. The State Commission on Petroleum Pipelines will decide whether rules for running a pipeline need to be strengthened.
Dewey Carey, who owns property in Columbia County, told the group he wants more state oversight.
“It needs to be more stringent, because it’s a big, big decision,” he said.
We heard just how big of a job pipelines have moving oil across the country. They power vehicles, trucks, jets and even homes. But property owners told a group of state leaders the buck stops with using eminent domain to take their land.
Carey added, “I put a tract of land in the western end of Columbia County because it grows so fast and I loved it so much I put it in a conservation easement. Now, I hear that a pipeline could possible go through it.”
District 121 State Representative Barry Fleming sits on the State Commission on Petroleum Pipelines. He joins the commission in deciding whether the permitting process is fair for land owners.
“Do we need that process stricter of eminent domain in Georgia or not as strict?”
The Harlem, Georgia representative will decide by the start of session next year what needs to be done.
“The United States Constitution requires anytime you take someone’s property for a public utility that they must be fairly compensated,” Rep. Fleming said.
District 168 State Representative Al Williams is also weighing the concerns.
“I’m very conscious and cognizant of private property rights, very conscience of what my taxpayers feel. There’s a lot of passion and I’m trying to balance that with the overall public good,” said the Midway, Georgia representative.
Savannah Riverkeeper Tonya Bonitatibus told us she’s not against the pipeline, but its location is key, especially if there is a leak.
She said, “These spills are not detected by the petroleum companies, they are detected by the farmer who is out in his timber track and notices the smell of petroleum. I think if we’re going to continue this type of infrastructure improvement or expansion we have to put them in places where people can actually monitor them effectively.”
Petroleum is a thing of the past for one man who drove his electric vehicle from Savannah to attend the public hearing in Evans.
Savannah resident Joseph Bonds explained his thoughts about the future to us.
“Alternative power sources, wind energy, solar energy, are going to quickly eliminate the need for fossil fuels.”
There will be another public hearing in Atlanta in two weeks. The committee will then make a decision during session when it starts in January.
Photojournalist: Gary Hipps