Woman bikes route to protest pipeline

Published May 14, 2015

The Brunswick News

A quirky woman in a wide-brimmed straw hat has spent the last week bicycling down Georgia’s coastal region from Waynesboro made her final stop in downtown Brunswick on Wednesday.

No, she has not been taking a long joy ride. Gretchen Elsner, the vice president of Georgia Climate Change Coalition, is riding most of the length of the proposed Palmetto Pipeline in protest against it.

Gretchen Elsner, vice president of Georgia Climate Change Coalition, speaks to citizens in downtown Brunswick Wednesday. She is riding her bike from Waynesboro to Brunswick to protest the installation of the Palmetto Pipeline through Georgia.
Gretchen Elsner, vice president of Georgia Climate Change Coalition, speaks to citizens in downtown Brunswick Wednesday. She is riding her bike from Waynesboro to Brunswick to protest the installation of the Palmetto Pipeline through Georgia.

Georgia Department of Transportation officials are considering whether to approve or deny a certificate of convenience and necessity to Houston-based pipeline company Kinder Morgan. If granted, the certificate would allow the company to use eminent domain to secure right-of-way along the projected path of the $1 billion pipeline.

One of the postcards that Elsner distributed during her ride states that the current pipeline plans would, “cross five of our major rivers, precious water sheds, delicate marsh lands, and take private property from nearly 400 individuals.”

The pipeline could carry gasoline, diesel and ethanol for 360 miles underground from Belton, S.C., to Jacksonville. It would also run through 24 miles of Glynn County, 18 miles of Camden County and 17 miles of McIntosh County.

Elsner says Georgia is the only state that the pipeline would affect that allows commentary from its people. Friday is the deadline for the public to send comments to the DOT about the certificate of convenience.

“It’s a decision that will be made by one man,” says Elsner.

According to Elsner, if Commissioner Russell McMurry either approves or lets the certificate sit on his desk through the deadline, it will pass. The only way for the project’s potential use of eminent domain to be halted is if McMurry specifically denies the certificate.

The DOT has until Tuesday to make a decision on whether to grant the certificate. Kinder Morgan said more than 80 percent of the pipeline would run along existing infrastructure and that the communities would likely see lower gas prices from increased competition.

It also has said 99.999 percent of product supplied by pipelines reaches its destination safely, making the method safer than trucking or shipping gas.

Elsner is protesting the pipeline because she says it will have an adverse affect on the environment near the lines, and that she wants “to support the stakeholders — the people of Georgia who would be affected by these changes.”