Measure would allow pipelines more power to seize land: Macon GA Telegraph, 2/19/07

By Greg Bluestein, Associated Press

Lawmakers are considering another push by utility companies to give them more power to build pipelines in Georgia.

A Senate measure would grant pipeline-building utilities more power to seize land as long as the property is touching an existing pipeline.

The plan's sponsor, Sen. Ross Tolleson, says it will "help deliver more energy supply to the state of Georgia." But critics say it will make it easier for utilities to take land without proving a need for the project.

The plan comes on the heels of a failed bid in 2006 that would have paved the way for Atlanta Gas Light to bill customers for construction of a new $300 million pipeline. The measure was quickly approved by the House, but scuttled in the Senate during the session's final hours.

Tolleson's said his effort is aimed at helping another utility company, Colonial Pipeline, build a pipeline to Powder Springs in west Georgia.

"It just allows them to bring the pipeline on in where they need to get a little more footage to get the pipeline in," said Tolleson, a Republican from Perry. "There's no eminent domain changes at all."

Critics say the legislation would allow Colonial Pipeline and other pipeline companies unrestricted power to condemn property as long as the new construction is near an existing pipeline. Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy, a Florida-based nonprofit, is urging lawmakers to leave the current law alone.

"The existing statutory and regulatory policy protects the public from the unlimited access of eminent domain while providing pipeline companies a fair and predictable process to approve pipeline construction," said Rose Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the group. "The proposed changes, we see, have a potential for some adverse impacts."

Macon GA Telegraph: http://www.macon.com