Appeals Court Again Sides with Citizens

Overturns Decision from Lower Court that Clean Water Act Did Not Apply to Polluting Pipeline Leak

RICHMOND, VA — The United States Court of Appeals has rejected Kinder Morgan’s request to reconsider its April ruling in which the Court held that local citizen groups can enforce the Clean Water Act to stop continuing pollution of the Savannah River watershed in Anderson County, SC, from a gasoline pipeline spill by Kinder Morgan. 

In a case brought by the Southern Environmental Law Center, the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond ruled in April that Upstate Forever and Savannah Riverkeeper can proceed in federal court in South Carolina to stop the continuing flow of gasoline and diesel fuel into a tributary of the Savannah River near Belton.  On May 30, the court denied Kinder Morgan’s request for rehearing. In 2017, a U.S. District Court had dismissed the suit.

“The Court of Appeals’ latest decision to deny rehearing is another win for clean water, not only for the Belton community in Anderson County, but also for citizens throughout the Southeast,” said Frank Holleman, an SELC senior attorney. “Local citizens can now ask the court to require Kinder Morgan to stop the petroleum pollution of Anderson County’s waters that flow to the Savannah River.”

In December, 2014, local residents discovered that Kinder Morgan’s underground Plantation Pipe Line had ruptured, spilling hundreds of thousands of gallons of gasolineand diesel fuel.  The fuel polluted a nearby Savannah River tributary immediately and, more than three years later, petroleum pollutants continue to flow into the waterway.  Kinder Morgan had no legal authorization for this pollution.

“Kinder Morgan continues to try to avoid its responsibility to the citizens of Anderson County, and we are pleased that the court confirmed its earlier decision,” said Andrea Cooper, executive director of Upstate Forever.  “Fossil fuel pipelines threaten waterways across the upstate of South Carolina.  We will hold companies accountable when they fail to maintain their pipelines and are responsible for ongoing pollution.”

The case now returns to U.S. District Court in South Carolina for enforcement of the Clean Water Act. 

“We will continue to pursue proper cleanup on behalf of the public, and we look forward to seeing effective remedies that will stop Kinder Morgan’s gasoline from flowing into the Savannah River water system,” said Tonya Bonitatibus, the Savannah Riverkeeper.

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