Appeals Court Sides with Citizens in Petroleum Pipeline Case
Overturns Decision from Lower Court that Clean Water Act Did Not Apply
RICHMOND, VA — The United States Court of Appeals has ruled 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 today that Upstate Forever and the 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. In 2017, a U.S. District Court had dismissed the suit.
“This decision is a win for clean water and a win for the Belton community in Anderson County,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Local citizens can now ask the court to require Kinder Morgan to stop the petroleum pollution of Anderson County’s waters that flow from Belton 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.
“Upstate Forever’s central mission is the protection of our region’s clean water, and this decision allows us to ensure that Anderson County’s clean water is protected from Kinder Morgan’s pipeline spill and any others that may occur in the future,” said Andrea Cooper, executive director of Upstate Forever.
The case now returns to U.S. District Court in South Carolina for enforcement of the Clean Water Act against Kinder Morgan’s pipeline pollution of the waterway.
“Petroleum pipeline pollution threatens the Savannah River from the Atlantic Ocean up to Anderson County,” said Tonya Bonitatibus, the Savannah Riverkeeper. “We are enforcing the Clean Water Act to ensure that the Savannah River watershed is protected from gasoline and diesel fuel when pipelines break.”