Not one hand was raised for Sabal Trail before Suwannee BOCC voted against it –Suwannee Democrat

Sabal Trail’s excuse was they didn’t know in advance, even though their attorneys sent a letter beforehand, and they didn’t show up in Albany, GA, either, with weeks of notice. Spectra Energy’s Andrea Grover told the newspaper some other things that also don’t match the public record.

Carl McKinney, Suwannee Democrat, 20 November 2015, Dozens gather in Live Oak to oppose gas pipeline, compress station,

Not one hand raised among the dozens in the room when a county commissioner asked who came to support the proposed Sabal Trail natural gas pipeline which would run through three states and dissect Suwannee County if approved.

Tuesday evening, every parking space at the county’s judicial annex building was full as O’Brien residents, people from Live Oak and activists and experts from as far as New Orleans gathered at the county commission meeting to voice their opposition to the project.

The commission was voting on a measure to send a letter to Sabal Trail Transmission, a partnership between Spectra Energy, Duke Energy and NextEra Energy, asking it to reconsider a controversial compressor station for the pipeline it plans to place in O’Brien.

The article is chock-full of quotes from speakers at the meeting, including Johanna de Graffenreid (pictured) of Gulf Restoration Network, Dave Shields of O’Brien, Dana Stevens, Debra Johnson, and Lori McCraney, as well as Chairman Jason Bashaw.

You can see that the Commissioners unanimously vote for the resolution in their own video of that meeting.

Sabal Trail’s excuse for not showing up?

Sabal Trail representatives were not able to attend the last meeting because the company didn’t learn about it until the following day, [Andrea] Grover said. However, if the business was made aware of a public meeting beforehand that would involve the pipeline, it would try to send people to participate in-person, she added.


County Commission Chairman Jason Bashaw read a letter Sabal Trail’s attorneys sent that cites case law and the legalities of the station.

So obviously Sabal Trail knew about the meeting in advance. (Not our fault if they didn’t; WWALS announced it the previous Friday.)

That letter claimed all state and local actions were pre-empted by the federal Pipeline Safety Act. Nevermind Sabal Trail just spend three days in Jasper, FL defending Florida DEP’s intent to issue a permit for Sabal Trail to drill under the Suwannee River: they seemed to think state actions mattered then!

And the Albany, GA air quality permit hearing was scheduled many weeks in advance and Sabal Trail still didn’t show up. Instead, Ms. Grover did the same thing: she sent email to the local newspaper after the meeting.

One could get the idea Sabal Trail doesn’t like to be in a meeting they don’t control, at least not unless they have to and they have lots of lawyers.

“We really work with every landowner to ensure that issues are identified to resolve any questions or concerns.” Sabal Trail has worked with landowners on their properties to address their needs, she added.

That’s not what Dana Stevens said in the Commission meeting, and it’s not what he and Tom Edwards testified to in the hearing in Jasper for WWALS v Sabal Trail & FDEP. It also doesn’t match testimony by DEP and Sabal Trail that they never went to see the springs, sinkholes, and gopher tortoises Tom Edwards told them about.

The project doesn’t infringe on anybody’s property rights, she said, because they are only easements for the pipeline to pass through underground. Once it is finished and operational, they can resume normal use of the property, she added.

I’m pretty sure Ms. Grover was sitting there in Jasper when Wayne Ellison testified that on the easement for the existing pipeline on his property he can’t grow trees or erect structures, and he expects it will be the same if Sabal Trail gets an easement.

There’s a mitigation plan available on the Sabal Trail website that details the efforts that have been taken to avoid sensitive areas, Grover said. Areas most vulnerable to sinkhole formation, for instance, are avoided.

Actually, Sabal Trail goes right through the most vulnerable region of the Floridan Aquifer, said DEP to FERC in in March 2014 and seconded by the EPA last month, and as also testified to by WWALS expert witness Dennis Price at the hearing in Jasper.

The studies Sabal Trail submitted to regulatory agencies were reviewed by internal experts and by regulatory agencies, Grover said, in response to criticism from WWALS Watershed Coalition about the company lacking peer-reviewed evidence to support its claims.

Remember, Sabal Trail just told Suwannee BOCC that state and local governments don’t matter for this pipeline. Unless Ms. Grover wants to say they do.

There are qualified experts in the regulatory bodies capable of reviewing a study, said University of Florida geologist David Foster, but that is not the same as peer review.

“It’s a form of review,” he said, but it’s not what we would call formal scientific review.”

Peer review, in the scientific community, means submitting a study to a nationally or internationally recognized journal for the science editor to send to experts around the world, who would then look at the results, the methodology and the interpretations of the facts and send an analysis of the study back to the journal. If the editor determines it is of sufficient quality, it will be published in the journal.

The benefit is that the experts in a peer review have no relationship to the study or the entity that conducted it, Foster said.

Grover agreed that Sabal Trail’s studies weren’t technically peer-reviewed, but said they were still looked at by experts in the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Yeah, they were looked at by the EPA, which told FERC it found them seriously lacking, and recommended Sabal Trail move completely out of the most vulnerable area of the Floridan Aquifer, if not out of the aquifer entirely.

“We adhere to all the guidelines,” she said.

Really? Tuesday Sabal Trail’s attorney’s submitted a motion to the judge that wasn’t in the very brief list of types of permitted motions for the summary hearing that Sabal Trail had insisted on. The judge denied Sabal Trail’s motion and now we wait for the judge to review the recommended orders and to issue his final order on or before December 6th 2015.

Maybe Ms. Grover meant Sabal Trail adheres to all the guidelines from DEP or the state of Florida. If so, she knows that’s what WWALS is contesting in that case: see the WWALS recommended order for how Sabal Trail did not do what state law requires and DEP didn’t check.

Wait, here’s something she told the newspaper that might match the evidence:

As far as air pollution from the compressor station in O’Brien, Sabal Trail’s studies found it would only account for .29 percent of Suwannee County’s total emissions, Grover said. However, she wasn’t sure which specific kinds of emissions that research looked at and included in the figure.

Only a few weeks before, she told the Albany Herald:

“Sabal Trail would play a very small role in the existing county air emissions, adding less than 0.5 percent to the existing contributors in Dougherty County. Many other minor sources already exist in the area, as well as four existing facilities in the area that fall under the category of a ‘major source.’”

Suwannee Democrat reporter Carl McKinney thought to ask her what the other sources were. And she couldn’t name them.

She told the Suwannee Democrat:

“We’d be happy to come provide information,” Grover said.

With this kind of information, there’s no point in waiting for her to show up: just vote no to Sabal Trail.

John Quarterman, president of WWALS, was one of them. Despite what Sabal Trail wants people to believe, he said, the battle is not over. For instance, the project still needs to be approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“Why should money from Houston get to take our land and pollute our waters?” Quarterman asked in a phone interview. “Let’s repel the invasion.”


2 thoughts on “Not one hand was raised for Sabal Trail before Suwannee BOCC voted against it –Suwannee Democrat

  1. Pingback: Sabal Trail pipeline route discussion, Suwannee Board of County Commissioners, 2015-12-01 | WWALS Watershed Coalition

  2. Pingback: To protect the aquifer and to protect the river: Suwannee County against Sabal Trail 2015-12-01 | WWALS Watershed Coalition

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