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These Homeowners Fought A Big Oil Company’s Eminent Domain Seizure … And The Little Guy Won

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Farms and property owners in Georgia have won a big victory in the battle against eminent domain.

The state’s Department of Transportation Commissioner rejected an application that would have given energy company Kinder Morgan the right to seize private property for a pipeline that would have sliced across 210 miles and through 600 private tracts of land.

Georgia DOT Commissioner Russell McMurray turned down the company’s application last month for a public needs certificate for the $1 billion Palmetto Pipeline that would have carried gasoline, ethanol and diesel fuel from the Gulf Coast and South Carolina to Georgia and Northern Florida.

The decision sits well with tree farmer Eddie Reddick, who said representatives from the company drove over some of his young pine trees when they surveyed his property.

“This tree will eventually die,” he told the Marketplace radio program, pointing to a small tree on the 845-acre property.

It wasn’t the only one.

 “See, there’s a nice vigorous growing seedling, about 7-foot tall, that’s been run over,” he added.

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The pipeline would take about 4.5 acres from his property. He acknowledged to Marketplace that that’s not a lot, but he’s standing on principle.

“As a private landowner, [you] feel like you’re being run over,” Reddick said.

Stakes on his land read “proposed pipeline.”

Georgia state law gives corporations the right to seize private property if they can prove their use of it will meet a “public need.” Kinder Morgan contends the Palmetto Pipeline is needed to supply the cities of Savanah, Georgia and Jacksonville, Florida, with fuel. Jacksonville is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States.

“People want to say this is my property, and you can’t have it, and the fact of the matter is, that’s not true,” University of Georgia law professor Peter Appel told Marketplace. “A pipeline, similar to a railway line, is almost a classic case for when eminent domain makes sense.”

That type of argument didn’t go over well at a public hearing in May, when about 200 people showed up to oppose the proposal.

“My mama’s people, and my daddy’s people, been here since the 1700s,” property owner Jeff Mallard said. “I don’t agree with eminent domain.”

It’s Up to the Government

Said Appel, “It really is up to the government to decide, ‘Are we going to put our power behind this project?’”

The Palmetto pipeline project is far from dead even without the certificate. Kinder Morgan has the right to appeal McMurray’s decision to the state courts.

Do you believe a pipeline is a proper use of eminent domain? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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