Savannah > Pipeline Creates Controversy in East Georgia

| April 13, 2015

Savannah_skyline

SAVANNAH — While Kinder Morgan is seeking government permission to condemn land for its proposed Palmetto Pipeline through much of eastern Georgia, the company will not release to the public or the media copies of aerial maps showing what private property it may want.

Kinder Morgan did give copies of the maps to Effingham County this week, but county officials refused to give the Savannah Morning News access to the maps, citing what the company asserted were legal reasons for preventing their release.

David E. Hudson, general counsel for the Georgia Press Association and attorney for the Savannah Morning News, called the reasons cited for denying access to the maps “bogus.”

“The federal regulations are clear that maps merely showing the location of a proposed pipeline is not information that is protected from disclosure,” Hudson said.

During a public meeting in Effingham County on March 31, Kinder Morgan displayed two large books with aerial maps showing particular parcels that might be affected. The pipeline would travel 210 miles in Georgia, with 39 miles in Effingham, the longest stretch in any one county.

“We don’t feel it is beneficial to release maps for public viewing without the context of a representative explaining the particulars,” said Melissa Ruiz, of media relations for Kinder Morgan, in an email. “And with the route still in development, it doesn’t make sense to send something that may already be out of date.”

Ruiz said the company plans to build the pipeline adjacent to existing pipeline and power line easements for about 80 percent of the route.

Effingham County officials said Kinder Morgan’s refusal to release the maps “asserts that the information contained in the maps relating to the transmission or distribution of energy is Critical Energy Infrastructure Information” and not public record.

The county also quoted the company as saying the maps are not public because they are a “trade secret” and because their release “could compromise security against sabotage, criminal or other terroristic acts.”

Allen Fore, Kinder Morgan vice president of public affairs, said after the meeting in Effingham that the maps were not available online, partly because the company doesn’t want the public to “latch on” to a route that may change later.

Hudson said none of the exceptions cited by the county and Kinder Morgan apply.

He said he would send a letter to the county on behalf of the newspaper demanding that it release the maps and explaining in detail his legal reasoning.

“If Kinder Morgan is asserting bogus reasons not to disclose basic information like its proposed pipeline location … it should cause the public to wonder how much faith can be placed in Kinder Morgan regarding any aspect of this pipeline,” Hudson said. “Should Kinder Morgan be given the power of eminent domain for this project if it is trying to play ‘hide the pea’ with information that should be made public?”

Savannah Morning News

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