Laurens Co. seeks to block eminent domain for Upstate pipeline construction
January 24th, 2017
By Michael Burns
Laurens County Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to urge government regulators and representatives to deny a private company the right to use eminent domain to acquire easements for the construction of a natural-gas pipeline.
Landowners who stand to be affected by the project spoke in opposition to the plan after a presentation from Keith Windle, the general manager of Dominion Carolina Gas Transmission, which is pursuing the 55-mile pipeline from Spartanburg County to Greenwood County.
Dominion has reached agreements with about 60-percent of the easements required for the project, according company spokesperson Kristen Beckham, and authorization for the use of eminent domain in acquiring the rest could be granted by state and federal officials if the project is deemed in the best interest of the public.
Eminent domain allows for the expropriation of private property for public use with compensation, and it would come into play for landowners who don’t reach agreements with Dominion.
Several who spoke to the council Tuesday indicated no agreement would come.
“My land is not for sale,” said Robby Bell, a local schoolboard member who traced his property’s ownership through his family to before the Revolutionary War.
The pipeline is pending a decision to be issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. It's contracted to transfer natural gas to serve residents and businesses nearer the coast. Construction could begin once Dominion obtains FERC approval and related authorizations, including from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.
While Laurens County officials’ letter to regulators and state representatives will bear no legal binding on its own, it could influence the officials who will ultimately decide the proposed pipeline’s fate, according to Laurens County native Michael Corley, the staff attorney and Upstate coordinator for the South Carolina Environmental Law Project, a nonprofit public-interest law firm that’s among groups fighting the pipeline’s construction.