Update 2017-08-29: Fourth news roundup: From pipelines to renewable energy and efficiency –Sierra Club 2017-08-29
“This is wind in our sails and could be the end of Sabal Trail,” Quarterman said, on the front page of the newspaper of record in the largest city in the Suwannee Basin, the Valdosta Daily Times.
We got sails no one can see.
Suwannee Riverkeeper Vessel on the Suwannee River protesting Sabal Trail 2017-01-14
As Frank Jackalone says (see below), FERC has been getting away with murder. And now maybe they can’t.
Thomas Lynn, Valdosta Daily Times, 23 August 2017, Court decision to impact Sabal Trail pipeline,
John Quarterman, a member of the WWALS Watershed Coalition, an organization opposed to the pipeline, said the decision will lead to FERC performing another environmental study but might also create a powerful precedent.
The precedent could mean FERC has to consider greenhouse gases for all pipeline proposals in the future. Quarterman said it could mean energy generators such as solar and wind that don’t produce greenhouse gases would be more heavily favored instead of fossil fuels.
“This is wind in our sails and could be the end of Sabal Trail,” Quarterman said.
As we’ve seen from yesterday’s roundup of news stories, fossil fuel industry press and many attorneys are hailing the Major Landmark Victory of Sierra Club against Sabal Trail, which takes away the “regulatory certainty” of the FERC rubberstamp, could shut down Sabal Trail and the other two parts of the Southeast Market Pipelines Project (taking all their offshoot pipelines and LNG export operations with it), plus maybe affecting all other pipelines currently in FERC permitting, and maybe even others already permitted.
This goes far beyond bad publicity. This sudden lack of “regulatory certainty” breaks the FERC rubberstamp machine as a sure way to get eminent domain to ram through a pipeline, profiting from the externalities of taking peoples’ land, gouging under their rivers and through their wetlands, risking their children in explosions, or poisoning everybody with their fossil fuels leaking and burning.
Without a captive agency such as FERC to hide all those subsidies for them, pipeline companies have no profit left.
Now if pipeline investors get spooked, that’s the end of it. Not just Sabal Trail: the end of the whole pipeline boondoggle.
As the stories I posted yesterday indicate, it’s not just me that thinks that: it’s OilPrice.com and other industry rags, and numerous attorneys.
Will that actually happen? Nobody knows yet. But the mere possibility that it might is making seasoned pipeline executives quake in their drilling-mud-stained boots.
The irony of this VDT story coming one week after Sabal Trail’s advertisement in the same paper:
You’re not welcome, Sabal Trail. Go home to Houston, and take your pipe with you.
Now some more news stories. The first two are from the cities with the first two compressor station sites: Alexander City, Alabama, and Albany, Georgia.
At the head of the black snake, where Sabal Trail starts at Transco in Alabama,
Staff Reports, Alexander City Outlook, 24 August 2017,
Sabal Trail Pipeline dealt a blow in federal lawsuit.
The Outlook ran the Gainesville Sun story by Andrew Caplan listed yesterday. Here’s the part directly linking the Three Stooges in Dunnellon to this court decision:
Contractors building a compressor station in Dunnellon in Marion County, which will connect to the pipeline, also are still working to repair an odorant tank leak. The leak was first reported last month.
In a Sierra Club news release, the club’s Florida director, Frank Jackalone, said Floridians have been aware of the dangers from the project and have spoken against it.
“That fear was manifested when this project began leaking into our communities the other week, and it’s why a thorough review of this pipeline will show that it must be and should have been rejected,” he said.
The Alexander City head of the Sabal Trail snake looks more finished than it did when pipeliner pickups tailed us at the HIllabee Power Plant in October 2016, but now maybe it will get unfinished:
Now a word from Gloria Gaines.
Jennifer Parks, Albany Herald, 23 August 2017,
Federal appeals court orders second environmental study for Sabal Trail pipeline
United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rules on pipeline controversy,
Dougherty County Commissioner Gloria Gaines said the court’s decision offers an opportunity for another look at plans for the trail, which include a compressor station that is to be built in a highly-populated area of Dougherty County.
“We don’t know what the alterations will be or how broad the scope, but at a minimum, we do hope it will look at alternatives (that will impact us),” Gaines said. “(My impression is that the review will) be confined to emissions. If it is just limited to that analysis, it will not help us on that.”
If the compressor is moved to a more remote area, Gaines said that is be an outcome she would be happy with.
“We would like to see it in a more remote area, and there are alternatives to that, but it would be more costly (for development),” she said. “(Also, taxpayers) bear the cost for (the pipeline’s) bottom line, and I am not comfortable with that.
“We will support the environmental groups as best we can.”
Well, this environmental group says that’s not good enough, Ms. Gaines. I, for one, live in a “more remote area”, and I don’t want a compressor station, either.
Landowners in the pipelines’ path have objected to the seizure of their property by eminent domain. Communities on the project’s route are concerned that pipeline facilities will be built in low-income and predominantly minority areas already impacted by industrial polluters….
The landowners allege further oversights should have been part of the first study and assert that FERC used an insufficiently transparent process to approve the pipeline certificates.
But FERC didn’t care. Well, the FERC rubberstamp no longer has regulatory certainty. That ink ain’t dry no more.
And now a word from a place Sabal Trail doesn’t even go,
but the Gulfstream pipeline comes ashore there.
Kate Bradshaw, Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, 23 August 2017,
Court decision could spell the end for Florida’s controversial Sabal
Trail Pipeline: It’s basically the DAPL of the South.
For Florida’s large environmental community, Tuesday’s 2—1 decision by a federal court panel to make federal regulators reconsider their approval of the Sabal Trail Pipeline was an all-too-rare victory.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s environmental impact statement for the project, the D.C. court ruled, does not pass muster due to the lack of consideration for the project’s potential climate impacts, the News Service of Florida reported Tuesday.
From the majority opinion:
“We conclude that the EIS (environmental impact statement) for the … project should have either given a quantitative estimate of the downstream greenhouse emissions that will result from burning the natural gas that the pipelines will transport or explained more specifically why it could not have done so,” said the 35-page majority opinion, written by Judge Thomas Griffith and joined by Judge Judith Rogers. “As we have noted, greenhouse-gas emissions are an indirect effect of authorizing this project, which FERC could reasonably foresee, and which the agency has legal authority to mitigate.
And now a word from the mastermind behind the lawsuit,
Seán Kinane, WMNF Radio (Tampa), 22 August 2017,
Federal appeals court rejects Sabal Trail approval; decision could affect other pipelines,
On Tuesday a federal appeals court struck a blow to the Sabal Trail pipeline that carries natural gas for hundreds of miles through Florida; to find out how the decision could impact controversial pipelines across the country, WMNF News spoke with Frank Jackalone, Florida chapter director of Sierra Club.
“Pipeline fighters all across the country are celebrating today,” Jackalone tells WMNF News.
“The U.S. Court of Appeals in the D.C. circuit voted 2-1 to send the Environmental Impact Statement, that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission came up with on Sabal Trail Pipeline, they had them send it back for a re-write of the Environmental Impact Statement. They said that they had not adequately considered greenhouse gas emissions from the pipeline; they can’t ignore that, they need to do that, it’s part of the requirement of the law.
“FERC, which is the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is really getting away with murder in the way they approve pipelines. They ignore the rules on environmental justice, greenhouse gases. They approve the pipelines. They let them build the pipelines even without considering challenges that we make internally, within the process. So, the system has been rigged and it’s great to see a Federal Court of Appeals—you know, the next court just below the United States Supreme Court—deciding that we’re right, that they have to follow the law.”
The judge that wrote the opinion was appointed by George W. Bush. Could this set a precedent that the court is saying that future greenhouse gas emissions on a project like this have to be taken into account, that you can’t ignore that when it comes to approving these pipelines?
“Absolutely, it sets precedent and pipeline fighters, all across the country, are celebrating today because of this decision. They know that they can force the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission now to consider greenhouse gas emissions as part of their battles against pipelines all across the country.”
The Sabal Trail pipeline has been completed and there’s gas running through it. So, how would this decision affect the pipeline?
“You know, I’m traveling today and I don’t exactly know. I would only be speculating. My assumption—and here I’m speculating—my assumption is that they can’t use that gas, they have to go back and conduct the Full Environmental Impact Statement before that gas can be used at power plants.”
Is there an appeal that FERC could do or that the pipeline company could do where this might get reversed?
“Well, number one, FERC could appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. That’s a possibility. I would be surprised if they do. Secondly, you’re certainly going to see them come back with a quick Environmental Impact Statement, that considers greenhouse gasses in some way and they’re gonna try to do it quickly in order to make sure that FP & L is able to use that gas for new power plants. If they do a shoddy job, we will be right back in court.
“The bad news for Florida Power & Light and Duke Energy, which are depending on this gas, is that this slows down the process for them. This is going to introduce delay to their efforts to open up new natural gas power plants. And if there are a series of legal battles that follow this one, then it could be quite a delay. So, I’m hoping that this carries over into our efforts to stop the new power plants, that those utilities are planning, to stop them from coming on line.”
As the sun rises over the Sunshine State, solar power deployment rapidly makes it obvious that any new fossil fuel or nuclear power plants are dinosaurs whose century ended in 1999. Savvy investors already know this. Others will follow suit, and Sabal Trail and its ugly stepsisters will fold.
Beth Shankle Anderson, Orlando Political Observer, 24 August 2017,
Federal Appeals Court Orders Another Environmental Review of Gas Pipeline,
Utilities have boasted that natural gas plants produce fewer carbon emissions than coal fired plants. Tuesday’s majority opinion said the prospect of burning natural gas instead of the dirtier coal does not free FERC from its responsibility to examine emissions that would result from the pipeline delivering gas to power plants.
Monivette Cordeiro (Orlando Weekly), WMFE, 24 August 2017,
A FEDERAL APPEALS COURT DEALT A BLOW TO THE SABAL TRAIL PIPELINE,
Earlier this month, Central Florida residents began to complain about foul-smelling odors coming from the pipeline, though the company says there are no leaks and there is no danger to the public.
Very droll, WMFE, to end by pointing out that contradiction. Who are you going to believe? The pipeline company that has been repeatedly caught out over years saying things that didn’t match the fact, or the evidence?
News Service of Florida, WUFT, 23 August 2017,
Appeals Court Orders Review Of Sabal Trail Pipeline,
“In other words, when an agency thinks the good consequences of a project will outweigh the bad, the agency still needs to discuss both the good and the bad,” [Judge] Griffith wrote [for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit]. “In any case, the EIS itself acknowledges that only `portions’ of the pipelines’ capacity will be employed to reduce coal consumption. An agency decisionmaker reviewing this EIS would thus have no way of knowing whether total emissions, on net, will be reduced or increased by this project, or what the degree of reduction or increase will be. In this respect, then, the EIS fails to fulfill its primary purpose.”
Steve Patterson, St Augustine News, 24 August 2017,
Appeals court: Energy officials missed in pipeline review,
There’s nothing new in this article, except that it appeared in St Augustine, a city not on the pipeline path, as the map accompanying it shows.
Very different from the previous loss for Sierra Club on LNG export.
Diane Wilson, Newburgh Gazette (Illinois), 24 August 2017,
US Environmentalists Welcome Decision on Gas Pipeline Project,
“We conclude that the EIS for the Southeast Market Pipelines Project should have either given a quantitative estimate of the downstream greenhouse emissions that will result from burning the natural gas that the pipelines will transport or explained more specifically why it could not have done so”, Judges Judith Rogers and Thomas Griffith wrote.
Apparently there was an omission in the article, which probably meant to refer to the recent Sierra Club court loss in its attempt to stop a Texas LNG export project, and two others in Louisiana in 2016. The article picks up with a hanging parenthesis:
2016). The court distinguished Sierra Club from these other proceedings, each of which concerned the export of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from terminals approved by FERC, on grounds that FERC had no statutory authority to consider the indirect effects of LNG exports under the authority delegated to it.
That last sentence is an important point. And it’s being made in Illinois, very far from Sabal Trail.
There are things you can do to help stop FERC getting away with murder. Stay tuned for still more things. Meanwhile, spread the news: fossil fuels are running scared because the ink don’t dry on the FERC rubberstamp no more.
-jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®
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