Category Archives: Law

All settled with Sabal Trail without jury 2018-09-13

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Valdosta, GA, September 13, 2018 — This morning two landowners from Moultrie, Colquitt County, Georgia, and the Bell brothers of a subject property in Mitchell County, Georgia, all settled with Sabal Trail Transmission about payment for easements for a 36-inch natural gas pipeline through their land.

Defendant Jeb Bell said afterwards,

I am extremely unhappy, but such is life.

We fought as good as we could for as long as we could.

The defendants’ attorney Jonathan P. Waters had no comment on the confidential settlement of these cases.

These cases were originally filed by Sabal Trail Transmission against Georgia landowners in March 2016, invoking federal eminent domain supplied to Sabal Trail by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on February 2, 2016. The pipeline has since been built through the defendants’ land with no agreement and no payment.

Defendants Attorney Jonathan P. Waters, Attorneys
Defendants’ Attorney Jonathan P. Waters

Judge Clay D. Land, Chief U.S. District Judge, Middle District of Georgia, told the jury afterwards Continue reading

Sabal Trail Jury Trials Continue 2018-09-11

Update 2018-09-13: The outcome.

Attorney Jonathan P. Waters had some new questions this time for the same old Sabal Trail witnesses from last time. The trial continues this morning; see you there.

Gil Norman, Sabal Trail Right of Way Manager, who at $200,000 a year has made more than $1 million off of helping Sabal Trail get easements to “use as we see fit in our absolute discretion.“; Michael Fletcher, Engineering Specialist, who said Sabal Trail put thicker pipe on land that might be developed (so thinner on farmland) and pipe probably would have less top cover under dips between hills; and property appraiser Carl Schultz, who “summarized the summaries” of eleven papers, at least one paid for by a pipeline company.

And different defendants, pictured here going into the building yesterday morning.

Kenneth Gregory Isaacs, Atty Jonathan P. Waters, Daniel L. Dunn (GBA), Hamilton Isaacs, Defendants
Kenneth Gregory Isaacs, Atty Jonathan P. Waters, Daniel L. Dunn (GBA Associates), Hamilton Isaacs

Defendant Jeb Bell brought a 32-inch hoop to illustrate how big Sabal Trail is bigger than that at 36 inches).

Jeb Bell with 32 hoop (smaller than Sabal Trail), Defendants

When: Continuing 9AM Wednesday morning, September 12, 2018.

Where: Main Courtroom, Second Floor, U.S. District Court
401 N Patterson St., Valdosta, GA 31601

Sabal Trail Right of Way Manager Gil Norman attested that FERC could approve changing Continue reading

Four Three Sabal Trail Jury Trials in Valdosta, GA 2018-09-10

Update 2018-09-13: The outcome.

Update 2018-09-12: The second day.

Update 2018-09-10: Gretchen Quarterman and Janet Barrow attended the jury selection this morning, and will report in detail this afternoon. One difference from last time is this time jurors were asked if they knew Randy Dowdy, Wavel Robinson, or Sandra Jones. Perhaps not coincidentally, FERC required Sabal Trail to report on topsoil mixing for all three. Jones is also the remaining eminent domain case not being tried this week. The other three actual trials, yes, all with the same jury, start this afternoon at 1:30 PM.

Update 2018-09-05: According to a usually reliable source the Jones trial will be in January, so that’s three trials next week. Also, all three trials will be heard by the same jury. Given that each of the defendants has a different kind of property, that sounds to me like the circus come to town.

You can come see four more eminent domain jury trials start next week in Valdosta, after Sabal Trail lost the first one. Jury selection will start 9AM Monday morning, September 10, 2018. The actual trials could start that afternoon, and may run all week. You can’t take much into the courtroom, but there’s a public sidewalk out front, and there will probably be a TV reporter there part of the time.

Cases No. 4:16-cv-092 (Jones), -104 (Isaacs), -107 (GBA Ass.), -113 (Bell), Federal Building, Valdosta, GA

When: Jury selection 9AM Monday morning, September 10, 2018.
Trials could start that afternoon, and may run all week.

Where: Main Courtroom, Second Floor, U.S. District Court
401 N Patterson St., Valdosta, GA 31601

Event: facebook, meetup

The first case was for W. Lynn Lasseter of Moultrie, to whom the jury awarded five times what Sabal Trail offered. So apparently these trials will be for landowners all of whom, Continue reading

Valdosta Consent Order from GA EPD 2013-09-23

Due to tens of millions of dollars spent by Valdosta, we don’t see spills of tens of millions of gallons anymore. The most obvious Valdosta Sanitary System Improvement is the new, uphill, out of the flood plain, Withlacoochee Wasterwater Treatment Plant, pictured here on Scott Fowler’s office wall at Valdosta Utilities:

Withlacoochee WPCP 2016, Wastewater Plants
Withlacoochee WPCP 2016

The old, now-closed, Withlacoochee WTP was the plant that had the biggest problems back in 2009 and 2013. As found on the City of Valdosta website, the 23 September 2013 Valdosta Consent Order from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division is now also on WWALS website, including I made a web version, from which I extracted the paragraphs quoted below.

This was the original problem: Continue reading

Florida vote 2018-08-28

Floridians, please get out and vote today, and in November.

We are fortunate here in the Suwannee River Basin. We don’t have cyanobacteria blooming from glyphosate in our rivers with dead fish stinking tens of miles inland.

But we do have plenty of environmental problems. When you vote in the primary today (if you haven’t already voted early), and as you vote in the general election in November, you may want to ask yourself about each candidate, from city council to County Commissioner to school board to statehouse to statewide official to governor, and don’t forget judges:

Florida vote

  • Do they support banning fracking?
  • Do they oppose more phosphate mines?
  • Will they help stop fertilizer leaching into our springs and rivers, including getting financial and other support for the Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs)?
  • Will they help us all find out how E. coli and fecal coliform are getting into our rivers and wells, and from where, by assisting in water quality monitoring, and will they then do something about it?
  • Will they hold accountable those who produced coal ash and get them to dispose of it responsibly?
  • Will they oppose fossil fuel pipelines, and do something about the safety of those that exist?
  • Will they help rein in the rogue agency FERC, including about oversight of liquid natural gas (LNG) export?
  • Will they help the Sunshine State get on with solar power, so that nobody has to be without power for weeks after a hurricane, and we can shut down more fossil fuel power plants and close some pipelines?

These are just some of the issues WWALS deals with all the time. You don’t have to know about all these issues; every one of them is important. You may have other environmental issues.

If you don’t know how the candidates stand on these issues, maybe you’d like to ask them before November. Still, some of them must have stated positions before the primary today.

Sure, the economy matters, but how many jobs do polluted springs and rivers bring? Do people come to Florida to smell rotting fish from their vacation or permanent homes? There is no economy without an environment, and water is the basis of it all, including public health.

Seven of us Waterkeepers of Florida met with FDEP last month:

…to express serious concern and a sense of urgency to protect and restore Florida’s rivers, coast, bays, estuaries, lakes, springs, and aquifer.

As demonstrated by Hurricane Irma, major storms deteriorate water quality, threaten human health, and undermine Florida’s economy. Absent more proactive action and investment in becoming more resilient, water quality protection, and adaptation efforts, Florida’s economy, environment, and public health will suffer.

We should all care about what is happening in south Florida. Obviously because those are people just like us who live there, not to mention the wildlife and the rest of the ecology, and what happens there affects the economy of the rest of Florida and the nation.

After Hurricane Irma, Lowndes County, Georgia, where I live, gained 100 new residents from Florida. (That’s right: Suwannee Riverkeeper lives in Georgia. Rivers can’t read; they don’t know somebody drew a state line on a map.) If the south Florida situation continues or gets worse, people will move north. Many of them will move to north Florida or south Georgia, further affecting our waters.

So don’t forget about candidates:

  • Do they support stopping the destruction of south Florida’s lakes, rivers, and coasts by fertilizer and pesticides from big agriculture and lawns?

As an IRS 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity, WWALS cannot support or oppose any specific candidate for office. But we can bring issues to your attention.

And we can say, please go vote, today and in November!

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!

Spectra responds in pipeline certificate rulemaking 2018-08-24

As we’ve seen so often in the Sabal Trail docket, Spectra seems to be acting in place of FERC, responding yesterday to thousands of comments on FERC’s certificate rulemaking.

Spectra’s bottom line: a pipeline company’s bottom line matters more than the Fifth Amendment due process, or water, air, or safety. See page 25:

Contrary to some commenters’ arguments, the Commission’s public interest determinations are not rendered insufficient under the Fifth Amendment public use requirement because the Commission considers precedent agreements among applicants and affiliates to be evidence of public benefits.

Spectra repeatedly argues that FERC does not have authority to consider hardly anything other than whether the pipeline company has customers, yet FERC has authority to give eminent domain to private corporations and to let them gouge through our lands and under our rivers without local agreement or payment first.

Page 9: Tolling Orders, Pages

In this election year, you can ask every candidate for statehouse or Congress whether they support Continue reading

LNG export from Port Everglades and Jacksonville –Florida Bulldog 2018-08-22

Florida Bulldog reports on LNG exports right now from Fortress Energy’s Hialeah plant through Port Everglades via Florida East Coast Railway (FECR) through densely populated neighborhoods. The larger story includes FECR can export via Crowley Maritime from Jacksonville, and Pivotal LNG is already exporting LNG from Alabama and Georgia through JAX, arriving via truck down I-75 and I-10. Plus offshoot pipelines from Sabal Trail already go to both Jacksonville and Riviera Beach. Why should we let these corporations cash in on fracked methane now that solar power is already here?

A Crowley LNG export ship fueled by LNG.
An LNG export ship fueled by LNG. Image: Crowley Maritime; “An artist’s rendering of one of Crowley’s LNGfueled, combination container and roll-on/roll-off (ConRo) ships—El Coqui slated for delivery in 2017.”

Ann Henson Feltgen, Florida Bulldog.org, 22 August 2018, Despite ‘disaster risk,’ trains haul hazardous gas cargo in South Florida,

About the same time Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) executives were convincing Florida’s east coast cities and counties to back its idea of privately owned passenger trains traversing downtowns and densely populated neighborhoods, it quietly sought and won permission to haul extremely flammable liquified natural gas along the same tracks.

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is a hazardous material Continue reading

Bob’s River Place variances 2018-08-14

The Bob’s River Place agenda item on the SRWMD agenda for August 14, 2018 turns out to be the latest in year-long series. Every time I’ve stopped by it’s been closed, so I have no dog in this fight. I’m merely presenting what I’ve dug up in a few minutes by following leads backwards. This agenda-and-minute trail is probably incomplete, but what I’ve found tells a tale about SRWMD granting permits, then receiving citizen complaints including about safety. After which it seems SRWMD discovered numerous structures and other features that had been operational for years, yet had not been permitted.

[Slip and slide ramp removed from permit application 2/5/2013 yet constructed 4/7/2017]
Slip and slide ramp removed from permit application 2/5/2013 yet constructed 4/7/2017
PDF

FAR 2018-01-17

Starting with the earliest mention I’ve found in this series and going forwards, Florida Administrative Register, Volume 44, Number 11, January 17, 2018, Continue reading

Packet, SRWMD Board, 2018-08-14

The many interesting items on the agenda for next Tuesday morning’s SRWMD board meeting in Live Oak, include a springs campaign discussion, water withdrawals, creek clearing in Bradford County, and the latest in a long-running series about Bob’s River Place in Dixie County.

When: 9AM Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Where: 9225 CR 49, Live Oak, FL 32060

See also the other post about Bob’s River Place.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!

FERC rubberstamps Sabal Trail time extension before filing it 2018-08-03

FERC filed its rubberstamp approval before filing Sabal Trail’s request for more time to finish its Suwannee County connection to FGT’s Jacksonville Expansion Project, which leads to Eagle LNG in Jacksonville, which can export liquid natural gas through Crowley Maritime. There’s no rubberstamp like the FERC rubberstamp.

FERC approval before Sabal Trail request, Docket CP15-17

FERC did delete the last “unpredictable” clause in this Sabal Trail sentence:

This coordination must occur while taking into account existing scheduled gas flows on each party’s respective system during the high demand of the summer cooling season, which makes the certainty by when this can occur unpredictable.

Since high seasonal demand has been touted as an excuse for this pipeline boondoggle, maybe FERC didn’t want to think about summer cooling season, “which makes the certainty by when this can occur unpredictable.”

We already saw last winter Sabal Trail couldn’t keep the gas flowing when it was so cold snow fell on Florida. Now Sabal Trail can’t finish construction because of summer heat.

You know what works find in the summer and winter sun? solar farms such as the one FPL is building right now 25 miles due north or that Duke already built about 55 miles northwest, both in Suwannee County, both by partners in Sabal Trail Transmission, LLC. Neither of those needed a FERC rubberstamp, because they didn’t need eminent domain. Continue reading