ATLANTA —State Rep. Bill Hitchens has been named as co-chair of the State Commission on Petroleum Pipelines.
Speaker of the House David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) appointed Hitchens, a Republican from Rincon, to the committee. The speaker also appointed Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem) and Rep. Al Williams (D-Midway) to the committee.
Hitchens sponsored House Bill 1036, which established the commission and was signed into law May 3. The commission will examine the legal and regulatory environment concerning petroleum pipelines in Georgia and, if necessary, recommend policy changes to protect the public interest.
HB 1036 also called for a moratorium on use of eminent domain for the construction of petroleum pipelines. The commission will be made up of elected officials and field experts, who will do a detailed study “to ensure the exercise of eminent domain powers by petroleum pipelines is carried out in a prudent and responsible manner consistent with the state’s essential public interests.”
Three members of the state House will be joined by three state Senators, the Environmental Protection Division director or his designee, the commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs or a designee and five members appointed by the governor. The governor’s appointees will include a representative of the petroleum industry, along with four members who represent a cross section of local government, business, agriculture and conservation interests.
State law currently grants pipeline companies the power to acquire property or interests in property through the use of eminent domain.
The commission will examine the impacts on land associated with pipeline siting, construction and operation, including impacts from potential leaks and spills. The members also will look at current legal and regulatory structure about the protection of land use and natural resources from impacts associated with pipelines. They also will consider any mechanisms to restrict or control pipeline companies’ power of eminent domain to ensure pipeline siting is consistent with local and state land use policies and the protection of natural resources.
Under the moratorium, pipeline companies cannot seek the use of eminent domain until June 30, 2017.