Property rights, agriculture, karst limestone, Withlacoochee River –Don Thieme to FERC about Sabal Trail pipeline

Last in before FERC closed 5PM Wednesday for the holidays was local geologist Don Thieme, commenting about our Withlacoochee River and the fragile karst limestone that underlies it, among other concerns. It’s likely that FERC will continue accepting comments and motions to intervene after yesterday’s deadline.

Filed with FERC 24 December 2014 as Accession Number: 20141224-5109 “Comment of Donald M. Thieme in Docket(s)/Project(s) CP15-17-000 Submission Date: 12/24/2014”,

Donald M. Thieme, Valdosta, GA.

As a local resident and head of household in Lowndes County, I have concerns about the rights of landowners to continue agriculture and other economically productive uses which may be incompatible with the proposed Sabal Trail pipeline. I have also heard many concerns voiced regarding loss of property value, particularly where new pipe may be laid on land which presently has no existing line. As a professional geologist, however, I understand that these sorts of landowner concerns in rural and suburban settings can be settled once a preferred alternative is selected and compensation can be offered. It does seem that misrepresentation and poor communication have been characteristic of the planning for this project here in south Georgia.

The more serious issues which I have with this project are not specific to my county of residence. First of all, I question the company’s understanding of the geology and biodiversity here in south Georgia and north Florida. Although we do have some existing natural gas pipelines transmitting to power plants here, we are taking great risks where hydrocarbons are being conveyed across the Withlacoochee River valley and other areas of karstic limestones. These rock types convey nearly all surface contamination directly to a large and extremely productive groundwater aquifer. I will be producing a larger document analyzing these risks, but I would like to draw attention to the analysis already submitted by professional hydrogeologist David Brown regarding a proposed crossing in Hamilton County, Florida.

I also have a general concern about the current rush to extract natural gas and transport it through large diameter lines here in the eastern United States. We have an economy which depends upon skilled workers in service sector industries. Becoming a net producer rather than consumer of fossil fuels will have environmental risks and consequences for community health and for long-term planning of domestic energy needs. This needs to be a holistic assessment rather than the county by county approach that we have seen these companies take in proposing Sabal Trail. Hydrocarbon resources are in finite supply and we do have alternatives to satisfy long-term energy needs in areas with dense or rapidly growing population.