Soon down to the wire to oppose Sabal Trail invasion

The fracking that drives new pipelines was a crime until ten years ago, and it should be again: injecting poisons into the ground under our water supply was always a bad idea.

Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson and Jim Tatum, Suwannee Democrat, 14 September 2015, The FERC flexes its muscles on Sabal Trail,

The time frame is coming down to the wire as to Sabal Trail and its invasion of our riverbeds and springs systems. They have met with nothing but negative comments throughout Georgia and Florida. People have turned out in droves to express their dissent. In spite of this, they move onward with their plan to install a 36” pipeline under the Suwannee and Santa Fe Rivers, and through the center of this fragile spring system. Our springs heartland is a regional identity unlike any in the world, but vulnerable to developers and oil and gas companies.

Many environmental groups have been active in resisting. Our Santa Fe River Inc. was consistently at the scoping meetings voicing disapproval, and penned multiple op-eds against the pipeline. WWALS, headquartered in Valdosta, along with Spectra Busters, has been the best organized and vociferous. As of this writing, they have successfully obtained a hearing, whose date is not yet set, from an administrative law judge to challenge the Florida DEP’s granting of a permit for the pipeline.

Actually, the WWALS board usually meets in Adel, Cook County, GA and the WWALS postal address is in Hahira, Lowndes County, GA. I suppose if people say San Francisco when they mean Oakland….

Indeed, Our Santa Fe River (OSFR) has been very vocal in opposing Sabal Trail since the beginning of this invasion, and even more vocal lately in promoting a ban on fracking in Florida, and WWALS is also a member of Floridians Against Fracking.

Many other people and organizations oppose Sabal Trail, for example in Dougherty County, Georgia. For more, see the WWALS Sabal Trail Issues web page.

More about fracking from Merrillee and Jim:

Ten years ago, President George W. Bush signed into law the Energy Policy Act of 2005, a windfall for fossil fuels and a disaster for our environment. This terrible act houses the infamous Halliburton Loophole which explicitly exempts fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act, and gives the petroleum industry carte blanche to pollute at will. This allows them to inject undisclosed poisons into our earth with no accountability.

Equally bad, it gave the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) the ultimate authority over fracked gas pipelines and infrastructure. Also equally bad, it gave the FERC authority over the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, another law of protection now removed. So much for the naiveté of innocent people who think our Environmental Protective Agency will safeguard our drinking water and our environment. It will not. It has bowed to the oil industry.

EPA actually sent FERC some excellent questions about Sabal Trail in March 2014. But because of that 2005 law, EPA doesn’t decide. However, FERC directed Sabal Trail to get many local, state, and federal permits, so FERC doesn’t decide alone.

Another thing Mr. Bush’s Energy Policy Act did in 2005 was repeal the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935 (PUHCA). This important act was an anti-monopoly law which protected energy consumers by prohibiting the formation of energy cartels, which could manipulate and regulate energy costs, unfair pricing and exert unfair influence over politicians. This, again, gave the petroleum industry a huge amount of power, influence and money.

And this legislation made fracking legal. It’s commonly known as the infamous Halliburton Loophole, as in Dick Cheney’s Halliburton company, because then vice president Cheney, former CEO of Halliburton, put it in that bill.

Things to know about the FERC: they are autonomous. They are appointed by the president and they are not accountable to anyone, neither Congress nor the White House. Their salaries are paid by the energy industry, the businessmen they regulate.

FERC Commissioners actually have to be approved by the Senate, and certain Senators, especially Sen. John Barasso of fossil-fuel-friendly Wyoming, have been very active in determining who gets to be a FERC Commissioner. FERC does get an annual Congressional allocation of a third of a billion dollars, but then FERC brags on its website and in its annual budget request about “Full Cost Recovery”:

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or the Commission) recovers the full cost of its operations through annual charges and filing fees assessed on the industries it regulates as authorized by the Federal Power Act (FPA) and the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986. The Commission deposits this revenue into the Treasury as a direct offset to its appropriation, resulting in no net appropriation.

Merillee and Jim also talk about Florida:

The FERC has a little help in Florida. Gov. Rick Scott appoints members of the Public Service Commission, the group with the authority to allow pipeline infrastructure in Florida. The wrote: “As detailed in a state financial disclosure form, the governor’s portfolio included several million dollars invested in the securities of more than two-dozen entities that produce and/or transport natural gas, including several, like Spectra, with substantial Florida operations.” Since the governor has a money investment in Sabal Trail, it would be convenient for him if his appointees were to approve this company’s business activities here. And they have done so. More help for the FERC. ¨Our governor also oversees our Department of Environmental Protection. Recently, the DEP issued a letter of intent to give FERC the permits they need for the pipeline in Florida.

Lots of stories about that from Florida Bulldog and others here. And its that FL-DEP intent to issue permit WWALS is contesting.


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