The proposed Palmetto Pipeline Project’s underground footprint in Bryan County is getting a little bit bigger, members of the Development Authority learned Wednesday morning during a presentation by representatives of Kinder Morgan.
Palmetto Pipeline Project Director Brian Williams told authority members the pipeline will run through about
11 miles of South Bryan instead of the 7 originally planned.
Williams said the increase in distance is due to the company’s pending purchase of about 45 acres off Belfast Keller Road near the site of the planned Interstate 95 interchange. Kinder Morgan plans to put a terminal on that site.
Williams, an engineer, was one of two Kinder Morgan officials to speak during the Development Authority of Bryan County’s meeting at the sheriff’s office in South Bryan.
Others attending the meeting included county Commission Chairman Jimmy Burnsed, Commissioner Carter Infinger and County Administrator Ben Taylor.
Williams said the terminal will have between six and eight tanks that will vary in size. Some could hold up to 100,000 barrels of oil, and the facility will move up to 25,000 barrels of fuel products a day, which equals roughly a million gallons of gas per day.
If the project is approved, the terminal will employ four people. A pump station planned for Bryan County will have four or five full-time employees as well, Williams said.
The project is part of what could be an approximately $60 million to $70 million investment in Bryan County, said Allen Fore, Kinder Morgan’s vice president of public affairs.
Both he and Williams received a warmer welcome from members of the DABC than company officials did at a public hearing on the proposed pipeline Tuesday at the Richmond Hill City Center, as hundreds of opponents of the project attended and more than a dozen spoke out.
Among the DABC members who attended Tuesday’s hearing were Sean Register, who owns a shipping business. Wednesday morning, he lauded Kinder Morgan and its chairman, Richard Kinder.
“I was at the meeting last night but had to leave early because I had a medical emergency … but this is a first-class company,” Register said. “I’ve done business with them … Kinder Morgan is very safety conscious. Being in the logistics business, the safest way to transport any bulk product, especially liquid, is through a pipeline. It’s safer than truck, safer than rail and safer than a ship.”
He then referred to an early morning accident on Interstate 16 that involved a tanker truck and reminded DABC members they were sitting within 150 yards of a pipeline.
“I had a lot of people at the meeting last night telling me they don’t want a pipeline in Bryan County,” Register said. “They’re over here and we live on them every day, and we don’t seem to have problems with them. They’re very safe.”
Fore outlined the rationale behind Kinder Morgan’s decision to build the pipeline, which the company says is a $1 billion project with more than half going into Georgia.
“The only major metropolitan area in Georgia that doesn’t have a pipeline is Savannah,” he told the DABC. “It comes by rail, it comes by truck, it comes by boat. It doesn’t come by pipeline. This is another way to get refined products to the market.”
More than half of that product, Fore said, will go to Georgia consumers. None will be exported, he said.
Authority members questioned Fore and Williams about Kinder Morgan’s request from the Georgia Department of Transportation for a certificate of necessity and convenience, which would allow it to use eminent domain to force property owners to provide easements.
“That is rarely if ever used,” Fore said. “We hope it is never used. That’s our goal here. But let’s also be clear, everyone we negotiate an easement with is going to be paid. They’re paid for the value of our access to their property. In our negotiations, consistently over 90 percent of them are positive, amicable negotiations with landowners. “
Fore went back to that point later, after Burnsed said the company’s application for eminent-domain powers seemed to be the most-upsetting to residents concerned a private company would be able to take land.
“There seems to be some confusion about that, too,” Fore said. “We’re going to pay for the property. Everybody’s going to get paid for their property, and, frankly, a lot of people are happy about that and excited about that and are looking forward to that.”
And when authority member Mark Bolton asked Fore what would happen if GDOT Commissioner Russell McMurray turned down the request for the certificate, Fore went around the question.
“All pipelines have to connect,” Fore said. “When we look at developing projects, and this one has been looked at internally in our company for a long time, before we ever get to this point, we analyze this externally, we ask whether it’s going to be a commercial success, whether it meets permit requirements, is there enough need for this product for us to invest $1 billion in it. We’ve taken all this into account way before this point.”
Fore also noted the GDOT approval is just another step along a long road. The company still has to go before the Department of Natural Resources to get environmental approval, but he seemed confident the project will move ahead.
“We’ve planned for this a long time,” he said. “
Bolton also asked why Colonial Oil, which has come out strongly against the project, is so opposed to the pipeline.
Fore said he didn’t want to speak for another business.
“Our business is transportation, and whenever you’re delivering a product that didn’t have that source of supply before, it’s going to create competition,” he said. “There’s no question about it. This is going to create additional competition.”
Fore also said the company will begin working on the public-relations aspect of the Palmetto Project.
“One thing I saw (at Tuesday’s meeting) was a lot of loud voices (with) some, frankly, very incorrect information about this project out there,” he said. “We’re going to be more active about getting information out about this project.”