Opinion

Petroleum, pipelines and property

Legislation the Georgia Senate quietly but easily passed Friday has generated hardly any buzz in this session of the General Assembly. But the issue from which it arose last year generated plenty.

That issue was the Palmetto Pipeline project, the proposed conduit of Houston-based Kinder Morgan Inc. to transport gasoline, diesel and ethanol over a 200-mile route along coastal Georgia. (Attracting less public attention, but considerably closer to home, is the Sabal Trail through parts of southwest Georgia.)

After protests from affected property owners, the legislature last year approved a moratorium, effective through June 30 of this year, on eminent domain authority over private property for pipeline projects. The moratorium was put in place to give a legislative study committee time to look at the issue; the bill approved Friday reflects the conclusions of that study. (After Georgia imposed the moratorium, Kinder Morgan suspended the pipeline project.)

As reported in the Atlanta Business Chronicle, the Senate bill approved by a 40-16 vote would require a company seeking to build or extend a pipeline to serve every affected property owner written notice of the intent to exercise eminent domain on their land. A proposed pipeline project not involving eminent domain would still require a permit from the state Environmental Protection Division. In either case, companies would be required to obtain a certificate of need from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority, described on its website as a state agency that “facilitates programs that conserve and protect Georgia’s energy, land, and water resources.” GEFA manages and oversees such projects, and provides low-interest loans to local governments and other public authorities for environmental infrastructure such as water, sewer and solid waste treatment systems.

The bill now goes to the House, where it should get similarly strong support. Eminent domain is a greater-good public necessity, but property owners are entitled to all the reasonable protection the law can give them.

Poison minds

The evidence that we’re getting more accustomed to anonymous bigotry doesn’t make it better. It makes it worse.

Among the latest examples is a series of threatening messages and graffiti attacks targeting four Atlanta-area mosques. One mostly illiterate email threatens “death for you and your kind” from a self-described “Muslim slayer.” One crude drawing depicts the decapitation of a man wearing a turban; another shows what is supposedly a pig defecating on a mosque.

Almost identical stuff reportedly was sent to mosques in Birmingham and Huntsville two weeks ago.

The threats were, of course, reported to local and state law enforcement and the FBI, and Islamic places of worship and affiliated facilities have been urged to increase security.

Such malicious filth does not, of course, represent the prevailing mindset of Georgians, or Alabamians, or Americans; we don’t know who is behind these spewings.

We do know this: Death warnings are not free speech. They are terroristic threats. The perverted irony is no doubt lost on the idiots responsible.

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