Bainbridge -- There's been a law on the books for a dozen years allowing pipeline companies to use eminent domain to expand their pipelines-- with a few stipulations.
Those requirements would be removed by the newly proposed Senate Bill 173. It's sponsored by both Republican and Democratic senators, including George Hooks of Americus. Environmental groups fear it will give unnecessary power to the pipeline companies.
The terminal in Bainbridge is the last stop for the Colonial Pipeline that runs almost the entire length of Georgia. Senate Bill 173 would allow Colonial, or any petroleum pipeline to expand any existing pipeline one mile on either side.
"Colonial Pipeline says the bill is primarily targeting the pipeline from Alabama to Atlanta," said Red Hills Planning Coordinator Neil Fleckenstein. "But private landowners and plantations worry that eventually, it will be used to expand to south Georgia. And that could directly affect them."
Tall Timbers Research Station is an land conservancy group that works with land owners in South Georgia. They say there is no need to amend the state's current law.
"That law sought to balance the needs for pipeline companies to have the power of eminent domain but balanced it with private property protections and with environmental resource protections."
Right now, to take private property by eminent domain, pipeline companies must do two things. First, prove a public need, and secondly evaluate the environmental impacts the line would have.
"We just think those are very minimal requirements for something that could really adversely effect a number of private landowners" said Fleckenstein.
The conservation group says the law has been on the books 12 years and have never been used by the pipeline companies.
"There's no need for the amendment, for SB 173 pipeline companies already have a law that they can follow."
If the bill is passed, they worry its just a matter of time before its used to expand pipelines all over the state.
Tall Timers Research Station and Land Conservancy plans to fight the bill. Their urging people to voice their concerns to state leaders.