ATLANTA – The House beat back an amendment to weaken a pipeline moratorium bill late Monday night and sent the measure to the governor for his signature.

By a vote of 1116-48, House Bill 1036 passed to prohibit the state from issuing any permits or licenses until July, 2017, for the construction of a petroleum pipeline. It is aimed at Texas-based Kinder Morgan which has plans to build the $1-billion Palmetto Pipeline across East Georgia linking Belton, S.C., and Jacksonville, Fla., with a terminal in Savannah.

“Really, all we’re doing is slowing this down,” said sponsor Rep. Bill Hitchens, R-Rincon.

During the moratorium, a 13-member commission will recommend changes to the way the state evaluates pipelines. Those recommendations will come in time for the General Assembly to enact them before the moratorium expires, forcing Kinder Morgan to have to comply with whatever the new requirements are.

House Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications Chairman Don Parsons offered an amendment to allow the company to apply for needed environmental permits during the moratorium. It might have allowed the company to argue its application would be subject to existing law.

“The reality is we have to have highways, bridges and pipelines and water lines. All kinds of things have to be done, so we have to be very careful with this,” said Parsons, R-Marietta.

He warned his colleagues against passing laws targeting individual circumstances or companies. He also said the state shouldn’t take an anti-business stance.

“It’s not good policy – not good energy policy, not good legislative policy – to address these issues individually,” he said.

The state has already denied Kinder Morgan the power of eminent domain where it could have seized access to private property over the owner’s objections. Company officials have said they will find other ways to build the pipeline.

But current state law only required the Environmental Protection Division to review the entire project if eminent domain is used. Otherwise, it will just look at segments that go through sensitive environments and consider permits for the segments individually and without notifying neighboring property owners.

A vote hours earlier on a different pipeline served as a warning to Kinder Morgan. In that case, the House voted 34-128 and rejected a natural-gas pipeline planned for Southwest Georgia.

While natural-gas lines are exempt under federal law from state eminent-domain restrictions, the legislature had to approve use of easements on state-owned land.

Lobbyists found that legislators often got the two pipelines confused, but they seemed to know they were opposed to both.


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