FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 27th, 2015, Hahira — Continuing to oppose the unnecessary, destructive, and hazardous invading Sabal Trail natural gas pipeline, WWALS Watershed Coalition will file Friday an amended petition with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FL-DEP) opposing that agency’s intent to issue a permit for Sabal Trail Transmission to bore its 36-inch pipeline from Hamilton County to Suwannee County under the Suwannee River in Florida.
Update 2015-08-28: Here is the amended petition filed today.
WWALS originally filed a petition on August 7th. FL-DEP denied that petition on August 14th, giving a list of reasons and fourteen days to amend. WWALS will file an amended petition at the end of that fortnight, on Friday August 28th. Numerous residents of Florida have become WWALS members, and some will be named in the new filing.
Deanna Mericle, of Hamilton County, Florida, notes,
“Our members receive a sense of rejuvenation being out on the rivers and in the natural environment, including on the Suwannee River. It would be devastating if the rivers were irreparably altered due to the installation of this pipeline. A substantial number of our members would be substantially affected if the springs were degraded, the river flow altered, or the water quality degraded due to the installation of this pipeline.”
Thousands of citizens in Georgia and Florida already oppose Sabal Trail, along with at least one U.S. Congress member, numerous state legislators, and the County Commissions of Hamilton County, Forida, ans Terrell, Dougherty, Colquitt, Brooks, and Lowndes Counties, Georgia, plus the cities of Albany, Moultrie, and Valdosta. Those are all the biggest cities and counties along the proposed pipeline path between the Alabama-Georgia line and Gainesville, Florida, representing well more than 2/3 of the population along that pipeline path. Yet Sabal Trail claims that Dougherty County and Colquitt County want and need its gas!
Sabal Trail provides no benefit to Georgia on its intended gouge through our lands to get to Florida. It provides no benefit to Florida that can’t be addressed faster, less expensively, and far more cleanly and safely through solar power. Sabal Trail’s own figures filed with a federal agency show that half as much land as its pipeline right of way could generate just as much solar power.
WWALS holds the Sabal Trail pipeline is purely profit-seeking by its owners, who are:
- pipeline company Spectra Energy of Houston, Texas,
- utility (and former Spectra owner) Duke Energy of North Carolina,
- and NextEra Energy of Juno Beach, Florida, parent company of FPL.
There is no reason anyone should have to give up their lands, waters, wildlife, or risk their life or limb to profit a few executives and investors from somewhere else.
In Canada, after more than $120,000 in fines to Spectra’s Westcoast Energy for committing almost 30 infractions at its British Columbia processing plants in 15 months, the National Energy Board (NEB) on July 14th ordered Spectra to clean up its “management system failures”, noting:
“The Board expects Westcoast to address safety concerns on a systemic basis, throughout all its gas processing plants and facilities. Based on recent violations described below, the Board is not confident safety concerns are being addressed in this manner.”
That was only eighteen months after the U.S. Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) sent a Final Order fining Spectra for five counts of negligence, corrosion, and leaks, saying Spectra hadn’t followed either federal law nor its own company procedures.
This is only the tip of a thirty-year iceberg of explosions, PCB leaks, compressor station blowouts, property damage, and even fatalities. Just a few weeks ago, a Spectra pipeline blew up under the Arkansas River in Little Rock.
WWALS president John S. Quarterman remarked,
“Not only does WWALS advocate for our own members, we advocate for the interests of the people in these watersheds, and very importantly, for the natural environment itself.”
An explosion would cause death to aquatic species and irreparable damage to underground karst terrain and spring conduits. Species such as Gulf Sturgeon (FT), Alligator snapping turtle (SSC), American Alligator (FT), and and Suwannee Cooter turtle (SSC) would suffer death, loss of habitat, and decreased food supply, which would substantially affect their numbers. This is not an acceptable risk.
Hamilton County, Florida already got Sabal Trail to move off of the Withlacoochee River in Florida. So despite Spectra’s paid staff’s continual assertions that Sabal Trail is on schedule and will be installed, actually it’s late and it can be derailed.
A sinkhole opened up in Lowndes County in August mere miles from where Sabal Trail wants to bore under the Withlacoochee River from Brooks County to Lowndes County. The fragile karst limestone of the Valdosta Limesink area, containing our drinking water in the Floridan Aquifer, is no place to be drilling, especially for a company with Spectra’s long rap sheet of safety violations.
Even another pipeline company, Southern Natural Gas (SONAT), has complained repeatedly to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that Sabal Trail proposes far too many crossings of the existing SONAT pipeline, using substandard risky drilling methods.
Spectra claims Sabal Trail will protect our gopher tortoises and other wildlife, yet in Canada Spectra is challenging a fine for not honoring its written agreement to protect the Western Toad.
Friday morning WWALS will boat upstream from US 84 to the proposed Withlacoochee River pipeline crossing. WWALS will take pictures there like it did at the Suwannee River site August 15th, further demonstrating the opposition of WWALS members to that unnecessary, environmentally destructive, and hazardous pipeline.
Sabal Trail has sued Georgia citizens, including a Georgia Centennial Family Farm in Colquitt County, for eminent domain to survey for a hundred-foot right of way, and some judges have complied. Clearly more public opposition and opposition by public officials is needed.
WWALS recommends Georgia citizens help by calling Governor Nathan Deal at 404-656-1776 between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. and asking him to oppose this pipeline just as he opposes Kinder Morgan’s proposed petroleum products pipeline across the Atlantic coast of Georgia. The same reasons apply: it’s not needed, and it brings no benefits to Georgia, only hazards.
The Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) will soon hold another public comment period and a public hearing in Albany about Sabal Trail’s proposed compressor station there. WWALS recommends Georgians file comments on that application number 23350, or attend that hearing.
WWALS Watershed Coalition advocates for conservation and stewardship of the Withlacoochee, Willacoochee, Alapaha, Little, and Upper Suwannee River watersheds in south Georgia and north Florida through awareness, environmental monitoring, and citizen activities.
WWALS, formed in June 2012, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation with board members from Tift, Berrien, and Lowndes Counties Georgia, and Hamilton County, Florida, and members from New York state to south Florida.
As a Waterkeeper® Affiliate, WWALS has a duty to patrol and protect its watersheds “with an unwavering commitment to the rights of the community and to the rule of law.” WWALS works for improved quality of life for all citizens whether they rely on water for drinking, recreation, agriculture, or industry.
WWALS promotes conservation, recreation, and the local economy through its annual BIG Little River Paddle Race, through frequent cleanups and boating outings, and through its Alapaha River Water Trail and the in-progress Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail.
WWALS has opposed the Sabal Trail pipeline since at least 13 November 2013, when it filed a letter of opposition with FERC. A year later, 16 December 2014, WWALS officially filed a motion to intervene in FERC docket CP15-17. That docket is still open and others can also comment there, or even file a late “out of time” motion to intervene.
Last year WWALS recommended Sabal Trail as one of the worst offences against Georgia’s waters, and the Georgia Water Coalition included it in the Dirty Dozen 2014.
WWALS has long supported solar energy in Georgia, including sending two board members to Atlanta to testify before the Public Service Commission in June 2013 before that body’s historic vote to require Georgia Power to double its purchases of solar power. Georgia Power is now actively promoting solar power in Georgia. Georgia is the fastest-growing solar market in the country and has passed a solar financing law. Gulf Power is promoting solar power in Florida, which is poised to pass a similar solar law.
There is no longer any excuse for making the Sunshine State more dependant on fracked methane. It is time for Florida to turn to the sunlight.
John S. Quarterman, President
WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc.
a WATERKEEPER® Affiliate
and a member of:
Florida Springs Council
Georgia Water Coalition
Georgia River Network
(national) River Network
PO Box 88, Hahira, GA 31632