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Apr. 9 - Colonial Group says The Palmetto Pipeline is a Bad Deal for Georgia

Savannah Business Journal Staff Report

April 9, 2015 — Colonial Group, the parent company of several local subsidiaries including Colonial Oil, Colonial Terminals and Enmark, announced that over 200 employed workers could be displaced if Georgia allows construction of the proposed Palmetto Pipeline to proceed. At issue are trucking, port-related, and U.S. Merchant Marine jobs that currently deliver fuel to Savannah. Today, approximately 75% percent of Savannah’s fuel needs are trucked into Savannah from existing pipelineterminals in North Augusta and Macon. The remainder is supplied by competitors Colonial Oil and Western Refining through two ocean terminals on the Savannah River.

This news breaks after further review of the Palmetto Pipeline’s proposed tariff published on its website revealed that there will be at east four different volume-related rate structures for shippers on its planned pipeline. Although Kinder Morgan does not publicly disclose its rates for these tiers, this approach is dramatically different from the pipelines currently serving the market. ”Both petroleum pipelines that serve Georgia today have publicly available rates that are equivalent for all shippers regardless of volume,” said Ryan Chandler, Vice President of Business Development at Colonial. “It’s a level playing field, and smaller shippers like Colonial can effectively compete against the likes of giant refineries like Exxon and Marathon Oil. A tiered structure based on volume seems calculated to advantage the big refineries over the independents.”

Another key difference is in the number of competing shippers. According to Chandler, existing pipelines supplying Savannah and Coastal Georgia support more than 100 competing shippers. While Kinder Morgan has refused to publicly identify who it has signed up to ship product through its new pipeline, Chandler offers what he hears in industry circles. “Exxon and Marathon Oil are likely the major players here, which makes sense considering they have the most to gain. They will control the entire supply chain from start to finish.” Chandler explained, “Exxon and Marathon control key refineries at the beginning of the supply chain in Louisiana. They have huge distribution in higher-priced Jacksonville, where it will end. The Palmetto Pipeline gives them control of everything in between.”

Less clear is the Palmetto Pipeline’s impact on local fuel prices. In its application to the Georgia Department of Transportation seeking the State’s power of eminent domain, Kinder Morgan argues the Palmetto Pipeline “could serve to decrease prices.” Chandler urges caution for the public. “If Kinder Morgan wants public power to take private land, Georgians deserve to know the basic details necessary to establish public need. Other pipelines, including those currently serving Georgia, make their tariffs and costs publicly available. Kinder Morgan needs to share its cost and shippers’ names with the public.” Citing confidentiality agreements, Kinder Morgan has offered no specifics on the number of suppliers, their names or the cost these shippers will pay to move gasoline through the pipeline.

In an OpEd published in the Savannah Morning News on March 20th, Ron McClain, President of Kinder Morgan ProductsPipelines suggested Colonial’s opposition to the Palmetto Project was based upon “an obvious fear” of “increased competition in the marketplace.” Chandler dismissed that characterization. “Kinder Morgan’s idea of competition is using government power to stomp on private land owners’ rights in order to create a Southeastern fuel monopoly for big oil refineries. For three generations and more than 90 years, Colonial has earned its way into all the markets we serve by building highly efficient supply chains without Government assistance. We welcome fair, open competition.” Chandler also countered Kinder Morgan’s claim about lower fuel prices. “Notice that they say prices ‘could’ decrease. If two big refineries force out local competition, it’s more likely prices will go up.”

Kinder Morgan cites additional benefits to Georgia of “estimated annual revenue to state and local taxing bodies… of over $14 million.” “Show Georgians the math,” responds Chandler. “Kinder Morgan isn’t using a net number. How much of this revenue is already being collected through the existing supply chain? Kinder is out preaching to every local government body about what their project might add, but they’re totally silent on what it subtracts from the local and state economy in the form of reduced property values, higher fuel prices and lost jobs.”

Chandler said the impact to local jobs was particularly important to Colonial. “We estimate well over 200 Georgia jobs are at risk, and it extends far beyond Colonial and Coastal Georgia. Truckers, port workers, and US merchant mariners are exposed by thispipeline.” He continued, “Kinder Morgan estimates the Palmetto Pipeline will create up to 28 full time jobs, but they’re not talking about the ones that will be lost. Then again, they’re not talking much at all.”

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May 8 - Legislators Act to Protect Georgia’s Waterways; Passage of House Bill 549

SBJ Staff Report

May 8, 2014 - Georgia’s waterways received vital added protection with the passage of House Bill 549 (HB 549) into law on April 15, 2014. HB 549 requires Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division to maintain an emergency response program that includes appropriate and timely response to emergencies that threaten the state’s waters and public health as well as proper public notification in such emergencies. Another key component of the bill is training and coordination between state and local emergency personnel. 

“HB 549 puts into statute EPD’s regulatory rules for emergency response. It was a concerted effort by many stakeholders to protect the public interest and our waterways,” said Representative Jon Burns (R-District 159, Newington).  “We now have the ability to marshal all resources – state and local – to minimize the environmental effects of a pollution spill.”

HB 549 was introduced last year by Representative Burns, and co-sponsored by Representatives Jan Tankersley (R-District 160), Bill Hitchens (R-District 161), Butch Parrish (R-District 158), Ron Stephens (R-District 164) and Ben Watson (R-District 166).

“I was glad to work on such an important bill and top priority with the Georgia Water Coalition*. Our legislators, state and local agencies and the public were very receptive to having a proactive bill create unity and open communication,” stated Emily Markesteyn, Ogeechee Riverkeeper.

Resources for EPD’s emergency response program have deteriorated over the years, at one point leaving the program reduced from a $1 million dollar budget with 11 full-time staff to only 4 part-time staff members charged with responding to emergencies all across the state. Several emergencies, such as the Athens-Trail Creek spill, Ogeechee River fish kill and Brier Creek spill greatly elevated awareness of the need for quicker response times, communication and coordination with local authorities and public notification.

“We are thrilled that the general assembly moved forward clear and defined expectations, something that was previously lacking,” stated Tonya Bonitatibus, Savannah Riverkeeper. “I hope now we’ve alleviated confusion, and expedited response time.”

HB 549 unanimously passed the House of Representatives, and was carried by Senator Jack Hill (R-District 4, Reidsville) through the Georgia Senate.

 

*The Georgia Water Coalition is a consortium of more than 200 conservation and environmental organizations, hunting and fishing groups, businesses, and faith-based organizations that have been working to protect Georgia’s water since 2002. Collectively, these organizations represent more than 300,000 Georgians.

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Oct. 16 - U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Closes Regulatory Offices Due to Government Shutdown

Oct. 16, 2013 – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Savannah District has closed its Regulatory offices due to the absence of available federal funding. Regulatory offices will be unable to evaluate individual permit applications, pre-construction notifications (PCNs) for nationwide permit (NWP) or regional general permit authorizations, or requests for jurisdictional determinations until after current year funding is received and the offices reopen.

During this time, should a bona fide emergency activity need to be conducted in waters or wetlands that requires a Department of the Army authorization under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act or Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, please call 912-652-5279. Only actions that deal with possible loss of life, substantial property damage or substantial economic loss are considered emergencies.

Those applying for NWP authorizations are reminded that proposed NWP activities that require PCNs must wait 45 days before beginning the activity (see 33 CFR 330.1(e)). Please note that certain NWP PCNs require a written response from USACE before beginning the NWP activity. More NWP information can be found at http://www.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/RegulatoryProgramandPermits/NationwidePermits.aspx.

Prospective applicants should ensure proposed activities comply with all NWP terms and conditions, including regional conditions. They must also obtain other required authorizations, such as Clean Water Act Section 401 water quality certification or waiver if the proposed activity involves a discharge into waters of the United States, or Coastal Zone Management Act consistency concurrence or waiver if the proposed activity occurs in the coastal zone, prior to conducting NWP activities.

For more information on Savannah District’s Regulatory Program, please visit http://www.sas.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory.aspx.

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Oct. 25 - Update on the Status of Re-Zoning for Commercial and Residential Property Inside and Outside the City Limits

SavannahBusinessJournal.com Staff Report

Oct. 25, 2013 – Confusion remains regarding efforts by the Metropolitan Planning Commission to effect new zoning for the City of Savannah that reflects modern urban planning.

In March 2007, the process began with the development of the Zoning Assessment Report. After the report was released in August 2007, MPC staff began drafting the text of new zoning ordinances, which was originally known as the Unified Zoning Ordinance (UZO).

In July 2013, after a year of public hearings, and a lot of political wrangling, it was decided that a unified document should not be pursued. This has resulted in the City of Savannah and Chatham County each developing new, separate zoning ordinances.

The City of Savannah has re-named its plan ‘The New Zoning Ordinances’ or the “NewZO” for short.  To help the public understand the latest drafts – both the language and maps – a new Web site was built at www.newzo.org.

There are several subcommittees of city employees, volunteers and political leaders involved on each.  The Technical Committee of the Unified Zoning Ordinance (UZO)  worked with MPC staff to draft the ordinance from March 2007 through February 2010.

The MPC Staff worked with the Advisory Committee on most of the first draft of the UZO from April - June of 2010, and then again for two meetings from April-May of 2011.

The first public draft was released on June 28, 2011 and included both the full draft of the proposed zoning ordinance as well as the proposed zoning map which shows the location of each of the new zoning districts. Draft 2 of the proposed UZO was released on July 10, 2012.

However, in the summer of 2013 the name of the process was then changed to NewZO (New Zoning Ordinances). The names of the zoning ordinances for Savannah and Chatham County will remain unchanged.

The timeline for reviewing the draft zoning ordinance and zoning map was extended by the Planning Commission indefinitely to allow more time for additional work, including responding to stakeholder comments.  As that process nears completion, a 60-day notice will be given to indicate that the public comment period is ending.

After the public comment period is completed, staff will amend the draft as necessary and then present the revised documents and maps to the Executive Committe (Planning Commission) for its review and recommendation to thee Governing Bodies (County Commission and City Council).

Once the Executive Committee presents its recommendation to the governing bodies, they will each hold public hearings and then make the final decision on the adoption of the new ordinances.

The second draft can be seen at the Web site, along with maps of the current zoning by street, versus what is being proposed.

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Savannah’s Combat Readiness Training Center to Conduct Change of Command Ceremony Saturday

Col. Todd Freeseman to retire after 30 years of service

Nov.. 1, 2013 – The Georgia Air National Guard’s Combat Readiness Training Center (CRTC), located at Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport, will conduct its Change of Command ceremony tomorrow as Col. Todd A. Freesemann retires from active duty after leading the base for the past four years.

At 10 a.m., the Change of Command ceremony will be conducted to recognize the considerable accomplishments of retiring Col. Freesemann and initiate the new command of Lt. Col. Thomas F. “Gasket” Grabowski.  Under Col. Freesemann’s 4-year command, the CRTC proactively recruited leading fighter units from across the nation, including the first ever deployment of F-22’s to an Air National Guard Base.  His tenure is marked with the full accreditation of the Cyber Training Center, a one-of-a-kind cyber communications schoolhouse training all Air Force, Reserve and Air National Guard airmen in this critical specialty.  He was also responsible for recruiting major exercises to the CRTC to include a national security operation entitled “ARDENT SENTRY”, and “GLOBAL GUARDIAN”, the largest international Air National Guard exercise in the world.

Col. Freesemann started his military career in 1983 at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY.  In 1987, he was commissioned as an engineer officer in the Regular Army.  After serving more than nine years, he resigned his Regular Army commission and accepted an engineer’s position in the 165th Civil Engineer Squadron, Georgia Air National Guard.  The remainder of his career has been fully devoted to the Georgia Air National Guard, in the 165th Airlift Wing and Combat Readiness Training Center.  In 2005, he volunteered to deploy to Iraq to serve as a combat engineer.

His professional military accomplishments includes; U.S. Army Ranger School, U.S. Army Airborne School, U.S. Army Basic Engineer School, U.S. Army Air Assault School, Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Officer Course, Unit Supply Officer Course, U.S. Army Contracting Officer Representative, U.S. Army Advanced Engineer School, Reserve Forces Air Base Combat Engineering Course, Squadron Officer School, Correspondence, Air Command and Staff School, Seminar Air War College, Correspondence.

Lt. Col. Thomas “Gasket” Grabowski, a communications world guru and air-battlefield manager with 30 years of military experience, will assume command.  His acute energy and expertise are vital elements as he accepts the guide-on to lead Georgia’s preeminent Air National Guard Combat Training facility into an all new future, albeit with a streamlined cohort of experienced airmen yet honed razor-sharp for the tasks ahead.   

All ceremonies will be conducted at the Combat Readiness Training Center located just off Dean Forest Road at Davidson Drive in west Chatham County. Interested media members are encouraged to arrive early in order to provide the maximum support for your individual needs. 

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