Sabal Trail in-service: keep watching them 2017-06-14

There are still many things you can do, from permit violations to FERC reform, after FPL gloated yesterday about starting the gas through Transco, Sabal Trail, and FSC. Pipelines leak, and another pipeline’s go-ahead just got slapped down by a federal court, plus we need to change the whole legal game. Meanwhile, continuing the rocketing rise of solar power in the Sunshine State and everywhere else is the best way to pry the clammy grip of the fossil fuel industry off our political system.

FSC spill
Photo: Mitch Allen

Susan Salisbury, Palm Beach Post, 14 June 2017, Sabal Trail, Florida SE Connection are now piping fuel to FPL,

“The start of Florida Southeast Connection and Sabal Trail Transmission natural gas pipeline operations is an important milestone for FPL customers and Florida’s economy,” FPL president and CEO Eric Silagy said.

It may indeed be a milestone of the last pipeline ever built into Florida or through Georgia.

It may even be a milestone of the last utility and pipeline company boondoggle at the expense of people’s property, water, and personal safety, not to mention money poured into a trench in the ground that could have gone into solar panels facing the sky.

Remember, even FPL admitted in its 2016 Ten Year Plan that Florida needs no new electricity until 2024 at the earliest. Solar power now employs more people in the electrical industry than coal, oil, and gas combined. Last year, in 2016, more new U.S. electricity came from solar power than any other source; more than natural gas, even more than wind. Solar panels could generate just as much electricity as Sabal Trail’s gas on half the acreage. That calculation was from 2014, and the price of solar panels has gone down a lot since then. The $4 billion FPL wasted on the Southeast Market Pipelines Project would buy a lot more electricity through solar power than that fracked methane pipeline could generate. And last November Florida voters said no to a fake solar amendment massively backed by utilities and fossil fuel companies because Florida wants solar power.

Yet FPL’s president said this yesterday:

“By providing increased access to abundant supplies of U.S.-produced natural gas, this much-needed underground infrastructure gives FPL the capability to safely and affordably generate clean power for millions of Florida homes and businesses now and for decades to come. That’s crucial to helping us meet the energy needs of Florida’s growing population, improving the state’s economy and creating new job opportunities for Floridians,” Silagy said.

Maybe he mis-spoke. Maybe FPL’s president was referring to the few solar farms FPL is finally deploying. Get on with solar power if you really want to improve Florida’s economy and create new job opportunities, FPL. Or face the “irreparable damages to revenues and growth prospects” from solar power by other people that your own utility think tank, Edison Electric, warned you about back in 2013.

Kate Payne, WFSU, 14 June 2017, Sabal Trail Pipeline Slated To Start Up This Week,

The 515 mile underground pipeline spans twelve Florida counties, and runs through the heart of the state’s springs country. Suwannee Riverkeeper John Quarterman is worried how the underground natural gas line could affect the state’s signature waterways and springs in the area. He’s concerned pollution from the project, like road runoff and drilling mud, could ultimately seep through the porous limestone into the subterranean waterways that make up the Floridan aquifer. That’s the water source for some 10 million people.

“The nature of the springs in the springs heartland of Florida is, not just down at the levels where the aquifer are, but right up at the surface, there’s cracks all through this limestone,” Quarterman said.

Quarterman says activists will continue to monitor the project for possible leaks or sinkholes.

“I see no reason why anyone should accept any risk to the outstanding Florida waters, the Suwannee River, the Sante Fe River, the Withlacoochee South River, or of course to our Withlacoochee River in Georgia,” he said.

While Sabal Trail is already complete, the Sierra Club is leading a legal battle against the approval of future pipelines.

Actually, Sierra Club, Flint Riverkeeper, and Chattahoochee Riverkeeper are challenging FERC’s approval of the Sabal Trail/ Southeast Market Pipeline. They did get oral arguments about a month ago, but there has been no decision from the judges. Despite requests from Sierra Club and from WWALS, FERC staff gave Sabal Trail the go-ahead last Friday to turn on the gas.

That same Friday, the worldwide Waterkeeper Alliance, of which WWALS is a member as Suwannee Riverkeeper, passed a resolution “to officially and forcefully join in the national effort to reform FERC at the U.S. Congressional level… and to provide all political leverage, practical support, and other resources that are appropriate, using social media and public relations resources, to raise this work to very high profile….”

What You Can Do

There are many things Waterkeepers and you can do.

FERC Reform

Even though the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on 6 June 2017 forwarded two FERC nominees, but the full Senate has not voted on them, so you can lobby your Senators to vote no.

Beyond that, you can demand Congressional review and reform of FERC, like WWALS among 182 organizations from 35 states already did.

Quarterman of WWALS added, “FERC ignores half a dozen liquid natural gas (LNG) export operations in Florida, right where the Sabal Trail pipeline chain goes, which were authorized by the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy (FE). Passing the buck to FE is no excuse for FERC violating its statutory mandate in Section 3 of the Natural Gas Act, which states:”

“no person shall export any natural gas from the United States to a foreign country or import any natural gas from a foreign country without first having secured an order of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) authorizing it to do so.”

The Georgia legislature actually had a resolution introduced to ask its Congressional delegation to take eminent domain for private companies out of the Natural Gas Act. It didn’t pass, but it could next year. Meanwhile, you can directly lobby your members of Congress to introduce and to pass such a bill.

There are at least two actual FERC reform bills before Congress right now. You can lobby your members of Congress to pass those bills. Property rights, water, and safety are winning issues.

As Brooks County, GA farmer Randy Dowdy wrote after Sabal Trail destroyed his world-record-holding soybean fields,

“In a nutshell, these guys do not fear the federal regulatory agencies, because 1) they would be in compliance, 2) they would not provide inaccurate and untrue documents in their inspection reports, and 3) they would not mislead a federal employee in the course of an investigation, if they feared any retribution from federal agencies.”

Which is more important? Profit for a few companies from somewhere else, or local property rights and agriculture, which is the biggest industry in Georgia? It’s time for Congress to fix FERC.

And you can help make FERC reform an issue in every Congressional (and other) campaign, so we can get a Congress that will rein in the rogue agency FERC.

What You Can Do About Sabal Trail

You can help inform the public, especially in south Florida, Citrus County, and Duval County, where these LNG export operations are clustered, about Sabal Trail gas being exported by truck, rail, and ship.

In general you can watch Sabal Trail, FSC, and Transco like a hawk, photograph and video any sinkholes, leaks, or other violations, publish that evidence, call the media, and report it to the permitting agencies. Don’t forget your local county and city governments.

See for example Mitch Allen’s good work. Mario Diaz, Truth against the Machine, 7 June 2017, EXCLUSIVE: Sabal Trail Pipeline Spills Covered Up by Federal Agency, Pipeline Company,

In the latest example of gross negligence during the construction of a natural gas pipeline, construction workers for Florida Southeast Connection (FSC) Pipeline —which is the connecting pipeline that will eventually merge with the controversial Sabal Trail Pipeline at a compressor station in Central Florida—are shown spilling drilling fluid, and possibly diesel fuel into an active water-body and wetland—inevitably contaminating Florida’s delicate aquifer and main source of drinking water.

spills covered up

In shocking video obtained by Truth Against The Machine—and captured originally by Florida resident and water protector Mitch Allen—construction workers can be seen dumping the contaminated water into a private cattle pasture two miles down the road from their construction site. Alarmingly, it appears that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) helped them cover it all up.

The same day Sabal Trail turned on the gas, Lynda V. Mapes, Seattle Times, 14 June 2016, Federal judge rejects Dakota Access Pipeline permits, calls for do-over.

The flow of oil [through DAPL] began June 1.

But on Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg for the District of Columbia said in a 91-page decision that the Corps did not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on the tribe’s fishing rights, hunting rights, or issues of environmental justice when it issued the permits needed to complete the project. The Corps must now reconsider those aspects under the judge’s demand that the agency substantiate its decision to issue the permits.

We should demand a do-over for the Corps’ permit for Sabal Trail, especially given the Corps refused requests from four Florida counties (Hamilton, Madison, Suwannee, and Marion) to come inspect the situation and to do a Supplemenatal Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS).

Here’s a list of more things you can do. Perhaps most important, take your money out of banks and other investors in Sabal Trail or its partners and promote solar power.

Solar power is going to win like the Internet did. We’re still on course for more total U.S. electricity to come from solar power than any other source by 2023. We can have 100% of everything in the U.S. powered by sun, wind, and water power by 2050.

No more pipelines. Let the sun rise!

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!

2 thoughts on “Sabal Trail in-service: keep watching them 2017-06-14

  1. Pingback: If we hear about a sinkhole or a leak, we’ll be there –WWALS @ WCTV 2017-06-15 | WWALS Watershed Coalition (Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®)

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