Tag Archives: Law

Benefits must outweigh harms –WWALS to FERC Re: Pipeline Certification NOI 2018-07-25

Here’s the WWALS response to FERC’s Notice of Inquiry (NOI) about “Certification of New Interstate Natural Gas Facilities”. A few excerpts:

FERC should approve no more pipelines without comparing not just coal plants to natural gas plants, but also comparing sun and wind power. If that means no more pipelines, so be it….

In one of the most egregious cases, Sabal Trail commenced construction on the land of the Bell Brothers in Mitchell County, Georgia, and when they countersued, Continue reading

Glick and LaFleur dissent again from a Spectra pipeline permit 2018-07-19

FERC just rubberstamped three pipelines before Commissioner Robert Powelson exits next month. Yet Commissioners Glick and LaFleur are still complaining every time about lack of use of Social Cost of Carbon to account for Greenhouse Gases (GHG). Those dissents started after Sierra Club won against FERC and Sabal Trail in the DC District Court on just that subject; recently FERC and Sabal Trail declined to appeal to the Supreme Court, thus admitting the pipeline company and its permitter lost that case.

Open Season, Maps
Open Season Maps, TX-LA Pipeline Project

Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur spelled out the connection in her dissent on Spectra’s Texas-Louisiana Markets Project:

I believe the fact pattern presented in this case, a pipeline designed to serve a specific known downstream powerplant, falls squarely within the precedent of Sierra Club v. FERC.1 Given that the majority’s analysis here suffers from the same flaws as its decision on remand in Sabal Trail,2 I respectfully dissent.

Commissioner Richard Glick in his dissent on the same pipeline also explicitly cited Sierra Club v. FERC (Sabal Trail) and went further about the specific underlying laws FERC is shirking:

“Today, the Commission issues a certificate to Texas Eastern Transmission, LP to construct and operate the Texas Industrial Market Expansion Project and the Louisiana Market Expansion Project (Projects), concluding that the Projects are required by the public convenience and necessity.1 The Commission also finds that the Projects will not have a significant effect on the environment.2 In reaching these conclusions, the Commission maintains that it need not consider the harm caused by the Projects’ contribution to climate change. The Commission’s refusal to do so falls well short of our obligations under the Natural Gas Act (NGA)3 and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).4 Because I disagree with these conclusions and believe the Commission cannot find that the Projects are in the public interest without first considering the significance of the Projects’ contribution to climate change,5 I dissent in part from the Commission’s action today.

And yes, he really wrote “shirk”: Continue reading

Deadline for FERC rulemaking comments 2018-07-25

In addition to probably signing onto comments by a larger entity, WWALS is preparing comments for FERC in response to its Notice of Inquiry (NOI) about “Certification of New Interstate Natural Gas Facilities”. FERC’s current deadline is this Wednesday, 25 July 2018. Please send any suggestions you may have to wwalswatershed@gmail.com. Or file your own comments. Apologies for the late request.

Here’s what FERC has asked for:

In the NOI, the Commission sought input on whether, and if so how, the Commission should adjust: (1) its methodology for determining whether there is a need for a proposed project, including the Commission’s consideration of precedent agreements and contracts for service as evidence of such need; (2) its consideration of the potential exercise of eminent domain and of landowner interests related to a proposed project; and (3) its evaluation of the environmental impact of a proposed project. The Commission also sought input on whether there are specific changes the Commission could consider implementing to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its certificate processes including pre-filing, post-filing, and post-order issuance.

South Georgia and north Florida
Sabal Trail through south Georgia and north Florida.
Map by Geology Prof. Can Denizman for WWALS.net, 17 September 2016, as part of Sabal Trail maps digitized.

Here are some relevant documents, starting with a how-to in case you want to file your own comments directly with FERC: Continue reading

FERC and Sabal Trail admit Sierra Club won 2018-07-03

One week after losing a jury trial in the U.S. Middle District Court of Georgia, the Sabal Trail fracked methane pipeline and its purveyor of federal eminent domain, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), declined to appeal their huge DC District Court loss of last August.

Sierra Club, Press Release, 3 July 2018, Fracked Gas Pipeline Company and Federal Regulator Will Not Seek Supreme Court Review of Landmark Ruling: Existing Decision Means FERC Must Consider Downstream Greenhouse Gas Emissions,

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Neither the builders of the fracked gas Sabal Trail Pipeline nor the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will ask the Supreme Court to review a landmark ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit from last year. That decision required FERC to consider the effects of downstream greenhouse gases when deciding whether to approve proposed pipelines that transport gas.

In response, Sierra Club Staff Attorney Elly Benson released the following statement:

Elly Benson, Sierra Club Attorney
Elly Benson, Sierra Club Staff Attorney

“We are glad to see FERC accept its responsibility to consider greenhouse gas emissions from burning transported gas at downstream power plants. These dirty, dangerous, and unnecessary pipelines pose a threat to our communities and climate. They should not be proposed, much less built, at a time when clean, renewable energy sources are abundant and affordable. We will continue to monitor the pipeline permitting process to ensure the law is followed.”

The pipeline industry press was not thrilled. Charlie Passut, Natural Gas Intelligence, 5 July 2018, FERC Declines to Appeal Landmark GHG Case to Supreme Court, Continue reading

DoE FE can’t identify the circumstances for revoking an LNG export authorization

What sort of oversight can the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) be performing for Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) export terminals when it says that: “DOE has stated that it ‘cannot precisely identify all the circumstances under which such action would be taken.’” Further:

DOE/FE has never rescinded a longterm non-FTA export authorization for any reason. Further, DOE has no record of ever having vacated or rescinded an authorization to import or export natural gas over the objections of the authorization holder.

This is all from a recent DoE article in the U.S. Federal Register, in which DoE manages to come up with only one example:

Louisiana LNG Energy LLC, in google cache
Louisiana LNG Energy LLC, in google cache

DOE has rescinded (or “vacated”) one long-term LNG export authorization to FTA countries (see supra note 2)—DOE/ FE Order No. 3482, issued to Continue reading

Landowner wins over Sabal Trail in jury trial, jsq on Scott James radio 2018-06-29

The just compensation for property takings required by the Fifth Amendment is not “just” compensation, said Scott James. And a jury of peers of a landowner told Sabal Trail to pay up five times what it offered for an easement for its fracked gas pipeline.

“…nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
—Fifth Amendment, U.S. Constitution

Scott said this jury award was big news and asked if it was just compensation. I said yes, front page in the Valdosta Daily Times.


VDT front page

And five times is more just than before. But how is a one-time payment Continue reading

WCTV: Celebrating victory against Sabal Trail

Emma Wheeler, WCTV, 27 June 2018, Landowners, environmentalists celebrate ‘small victory’ over Sabal Trail,

The Sabal Trail natural gas pipeline was granted eminent domain in order to run through some of the private properties along its path. In doing so it was required to offer what the defense calls ‘just compensation.’

Eminent domain

One Moultrie land owner was offered around $20,000 for an easement on his property. This week a jury, siding with the land owner, decided that was not enough.

Sabal Trail is now ordered to pay five times that amount, more than Continue reading

Sabal Trail loses jury trial in Valdosta, GA 2018-06-26

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 26, 2018, Valdosta, GA — The jury deliberated a bit less than an hour two hours, delivering a verdict just before 7PM tonight: $103,385 for easement and $4,531.50 for timber. The figures offered by Sabal Trail were $19,979 for easement and $4,117 for timber. Assuming these numbers transcribed from various speakers are correct, the jury awarded five times what Sabal Trail offered for the pipeline easement and somewhat more than their offer for timber.

“When Sabal Trail goes to jury trial, it loses,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman.

Here are the winners, waiting in the hall before the jury came back:

Fred Jones, Lynn Lasseter, Jonathan Waters, Reese Waters
The winners: Fred Jones, Lynn Lasseter (Defendant), Jonathan Waters (attorney), Reese Waters (attorney’s assistant)

This jury verdict from the U.S. Court, Middle District of Georgia, is very similar to Continue reading

Sabal Trail Jury Trial in Valdosta, GA 2018-06-25

Update 2018-06-26: Cross examination starts at 9AM today in the Sabal Trail Jury Trial in Valdosta. John S. Quarterman went to the oral arguments yesterday afternoon.

Update 2018-06-25: Oral arguments start 1PM today in the Sabal Trail Jury Trial in Valdosta. Gretchen went to jury selection this morning, which wrapped up rapidly.

PDF flyer.

Maybe this will end up like the last jury trial, which didn’t go so well for Sabal Trail. Come see!

Photo by Mjrmtg on Wikimedia Commons of Federal Building, Valdosta, GA, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0. The date, case number, judge, and defendant, are from Attorney Jonathan P. Waters. Anything additional I have dug up.

When: 1PM, Monday, June 23, 2018, and may run all week.

Where: Continue reading

Judge rules Florida Amendment 1 funds must be used for land acquisition 2018-06-14

Acquiring lands in a springshed is one of the best ways to protect springs and rivers, and a judge just said the Florida legislature can’t divert funds from that purpose of Florida Amendment 1, which was passed by 75% of the people of Florida.

St. Johns Riverkeeper, blog, 14 June 2018, Legal Victory for Conservation Lands,

On June 15, 2018, Florida Circuit Judge Charles Dodson ruled in favor of environmental organizations that the land conservation constitutional amendment overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2014 requires funding to be used for land acquisition, restoration and management, not for other purposes.

Map of county vote ranges on Florida Amendment 1

Earthjustice, Joe Litte of Florida Defenders of the Environment and the plaintiff organizations— Continue reading