Political Notes – DOT holds final hearing on Palmetto Pipeline

[private]The Georgia Department of Transportation held its final public hearing Thursday night on the proposed Palmetto Pipeline, just hours after Gov. Nathan Deal dramatically announced he will oppose the pipeline project.

An estimated 50 people testified in opposition to the petroleum pipeline that would cross about 200 miles of Georgia property as it extends for 360 miles from South Carolina to Jacksonville, Fla.

Kinder Morgan, the Texas-based energy company overseeing the $1 billion project, has applied to the DOT for a certificate of public necessity that would authorize it to condemn private property where needed for the pipeline, and that request has stirred up much of the public opposition.

Deal had not publicly mentioned the pipeline project until Thursday, when he told reporters during a bill-signing trip to Augusta that the state would oppose it.

The governor’s statement of opposition puts the DOT in an interesting position.

Commissioner Russell McMurry is set to make a decision by May 19 on whether to approve or reject the certificate of public necessity for Kinder Morgan. DOT spokeswoman Karlene Barron confirmed Friday that May 19 is still the latest day for the agency’s decision.

McMurry does not report to Deal, however – he’s a professional engineer selected for the DOT job by the State Transportation Board, whose members are elected by the Legislature. Deal thus does not have the authority to order McMurry to sign or not sign the certificate.

McMurry’s office issued this statement:

We have communicated with various stakeholders who have expressed their views regarding Kinder Morgan’s application for Public Convenience and Necessity. We acknowledge the Governor’s leadership and his position on this issue; however the Governor has not directed GDOT in this matter.

We continue to work through the process that has been laid out in the law with the last public hearing in Waynesboro tonight [Thursday]. This is an opportunity for the public to express their comments and concerns regarding Kinder Morgan’s application. We will continue to gather and review all comments submitted by the public by the May 15th deadline. A decision will be issued by May 19th.

If DOT decides to issue the certificate for the Kinder Morgan pipeline, the project will then be reviewed by the state’s Environmental Protection Division. EPD Director Jud Turner is a Deal appointee.

Wilson will head the GSBA

The Georgia School Boards Association’s board of directors has named Valarie Wilson, former chair of the Decatur city school board, as the organization’s next executive director.

Wilson, the Democratic nominee for state school superintendent last year, will succeed Jeannie “Sis” Henry, who announced earlier she will retire June 30 after leading GSBA for 14 years.

“Valarie brings an unsurpassed perspective along with a high level of knowledge and experience about public education and leadership to the association,” said GSBA President Nath Morris, who chairs the Hall County Board of Education.

Wilson joined the Decatur school board in 2002 and chaired the board from 2005-2011. She joined the GSBA in 2009 and served as the association’s president in 2012-2013.

GTLA elects new president

The Georgia Trial Lawyers Association elected Atlanta attorney Darren W. Penn as the organization’s 60th president during GTLA’s annual convention, succeeding Linley Jones.

Penn is a partner in Harris Penn Lowry with a practice focused on products liability, trucking and auto collisions, wrongful death, medical malpractice, aviation, business torts, entertainment law and intellectual property cases.

“This year, I am confident that we will continue to work harder than ever before in our efforts to protect and uphold Georgia’s civil justice system, and I am looking forward to working alongside the finest group of attorneys anywhere in the country,” Penn said.

Voices for Georgia’s Children chooses Pelton

Emily Pelton, who has held executive positions at Refugee Family Services, New American Pathways, and CARE USA, has been chosen by the board of Voices for Georgia’s Children as the organization’s new executive director. She will replace Pat Willis, the founding director who plans to retire in June.

“Emily brings valuable experience in policy, advocacy, and strategic planning that will be critical to growing Voices’ impact for children in the second decade of our advocacy,” said Becky Rumer, who chairs the board of directors for Voices.

© 2015 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: DOT , GSBA , GTLA , Kinder Morgan , Palmetto Pipeline , Russell McMurry , Voices for Georgia's Children