Petroleum Pipelines in Georgia
One of the most high-profile pieces of legislation during the 2017 General Assembly has provided Georgia with strong regulations for petroleum pipelines.
During the final week of the 2017 Legislative Session, a bill that sought to regulate the siting, permitting and construction of petroleum pipelines in Georgia, passed the Senate and will now move to the desk of Governor Nathan Deal.
The Georgia Conservancy is pleased with the outcome of House Bill 413, as it has addressed many of the concerns raised by last year’s State Petroleum Pipeline Commission, on which Georgia Conservancy President Robert Ramsay served. The final bill is the result of a broad group of stakeholders coming together to agree on legislation and to work with our elected officials to pass House Bill 413 through a complex procedural process. From our 50 years of perspective, such collaboration is where success is often achieved. Input from landowners, concerned citizens, petroleum companies, conservation and environmental groups, and state officials were crucial in producing this legislation.
House Bill 413 includes the following:
- Requires a permit from the State Environmental Protection Division (EPD) Director and a certificate of necessity and convenience from the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) Commissioner before the construction or extension of any new pipeline in the state of Georgia.
- The permit and certificate of necessity and convenience would be required whether or not the pipeline company intends to exercise the power of eminent domain.
- The EPD permitting application must include siting information, a cultural resource assessment, information on geologic and hydrologic features, information on the presence of threatened or endangered species, and evidence of financial responsibility.
- Requires any company seeking a permit to construct or extend any petroleum pipeline in the state to first give proper notice to any property owner within 1000 feet of the proposed pipeline right-of-way.
- Establishes a process in which any property owner within 1000 of the proposed pipeline can file a petition within 30 days of the issuance of public notice and provided the property owner the right to a hearing before an administrative law judge.
The Georgia Conservancy believes that House Bill 413 will provide the state with the necessary guidance in which to approve or deny the application of any future applicant seeking to site and construct a petroleum pipeline in Georgia.
How did we get here?
In 2016, legislation was passed that temporarily closed the door to permitting and the use of eminent domain for petroleum pipeline construction in the state until a committee could review current siting and permitting guidelines and procedures. This legislation was forwarded in reaction to the proposed Palmetto Pipeline, a 210-mile petroleum pipeline that would traverse five major coastal rivers and cut right through the heart of some of Georgia’s most bio-diverse coastal ecosystems. The proper siting, permitting and construction framework was not in place at the time to adequately ensure safe and fair petroleum pipeline development. During the fall of 2016, the established committee, the State Commission on Petroleum Pipelines, on which Georgia Conservancy Robert Ramsay served, outlined a thoughtful and detailed approach to permitting that sought to forward necessary safeguards to prevent and mitigate the potentially disastrous effects of the oil spills and leaks - events that have become all too common across the country, as well as recommend proper permitting as it relates to landowner concerns. The 2017 legislation addressed many of the Commission’s recommendations and concerns.
We would like to recognize of the Savannah Riverkeeper, the Ogeechee Riverkeeper, the Southern Environmental Law Center, the forestry community and the landowning public for their efforts to see meaningful petroleum pipeline legislation passed through House Bill 413.
We would also like thank the following legislators for the dedication to this issue: Senators Rick Jeffares, John F. Kennedy and Jack Hill; and Majority Leader Jon Burns, and Representatives Don Parsons, Chuck Martin, Barry Fleming and Bill Hitchens.