Sabal Trail won’t comment in Florida about the EPA letter to FERC that validates what WWALS and many others have been saying, although Sabal Trail did comment in Georgia.
…In an Oct. 20 letter, the EPA maintained it always had serious concerns about the project, and recommends the approximately 515-mile-long pipeline’s path be redrawn to avoid environmentally sensitive areas in Florida.
Now, the WWALS Watershed Coalition environmental group has filed to get the letter admitted as evidenm in a legal challenge to prevent the Florida Department of Environmental Protection from issuing a permit for the project, said WWALS president John Quarterman.
“It validates everything we’ve been saying,” he said.
Here is that EPA letter to FERC.
Last month, WWALS and Tallahassee attorneys representing Sabal Trail met face-to-face at the Hamilton County Courthouse for a series of legal hearings to prevent the Florida Department of Environmental Protection from issuing the state permit for the pipeline.
An attorney representing the FDEP was also present.
Two attorneys for WWALS, three for Sabal Trail, and two for FDEP. See also the story Carl McKinney filed during the hearing.
…The project would need to have a permit from both the FDEP and FERC. FERC had previously released an environmental impact study stating the risk to the environmeni was not signifiant.
FERC is obligated to take the EPA’s findings into consideration, Quarterman said, meaning the project could face problems getting a permit on the federal level.
The FDEP intended to issue a permit, before WWALS began the challenge. At the hearings, the group tried to establish that FDEP did not do its due diligence in verifying Sabal’s assurances regarding the environmental impact of the pipeline.
The letter outlined several federal regulations that the EPA worried the pipeline project would not be in compliance with, including the Clean Air Act.
It estimates that the pipeline would directly impact over 177 acres of conservation areas, and is expected to have a significant effect on some geological areas.
Some of the the areas that the pipeline would run through have a higher level of protection, Quarterman said, so the state must demonstrate it would be for the public good.
“The EPA letters spell out at length what that is certainly not the case.” he said. “There is no safe place for this pipeline,” he said.
WWALS and Sabal Trail attorneys are still waiting for a decision from the judge, but if the environmental group is successful, it could send the pipeline back to the drawing board, he said.
Even though the last hearing is over, evidence can still be admitted, he said. The letter is extremely relevant to the case. he added. and could have a large impact on the outcome, he added.
Tallahassee was the original venue for the proceeding. but WWALS successfully got it moved, by citing a state law establishing that hearing on a project should be held in a county that will be affected by it.
If Sabal Trail loses, it would cost them time and money, Quarterman said, potentially including the loss of a $200 million bond with Florida Power and Light. A contract with FPL, which would be supplied energy through the pipeline, gives the pipeline a May 2017 deadline to be operational. or else the bond might be forfeit, according to his understanding.
Sabal Trail representatives could not be reached for comment. Its attorneys declined to comment on an ongoing case.
Much more about this case and other ways to oppose Sabal Trail here, including how you can contribute to the ongoing legal expenses of WWALS.
Or join us on the Suwannee River from CR 6 to Cone Bridge, Sunday November 22, 2015! Here are some pictures from our August outing past the proposed Sabal Trail crossing of the Suwannee River.
You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!