Nine Riverkeepers say FERC’s Sabal Trail SEIS unacceptable; request pipeline shutdown


Hahira, Georgia, November 21, 2017 — Factually incorrect, failing to account for LNG export or solar power, and irresponsible for not finding or creating a method for attributing environmental effects to greenhouse gases, as the DC Circuit Court had instructed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to do: that’s what nine Riverkeepers called FERC’s Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) yesterday; see their letter to FERC. The nine include all the Riverkeepers in the path of Sabal Trail and all parts of the Southeast Market Pipelines Project (SMPP) plus others in all three states invaded by those pipelines, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, plus Oklahoma, where the SMPP instigator, Florida Power & Light (FPL), owns a fracking field, The nine, who support fishable, swimmable, drinkable water, pointed out that all of FPL’s original excuses for Sabal Trail have been proven incorrect, and asked FERC to shut it down.

Green is Sabal Trail; Transco and FSC in black, SMPP
Sabal Trail in green, Transco and FSC in black, in Sierra Club interactive map of gas pipelines.

The Riverkeepers weren’t buying FERC’s ignorance:

  1. The SEIS states that FERC is “not aware of” and “could not find a suitable method to attribute discrete environmental effects to GHG emissions.” FERC is the agency almost certainly most responsible for new greenhouse gas emissions through its rampant approval of new pipeline and LNG export projects. FERC should take responsibility for finding producing such a method. As Senators Whitehouse and Bennet have spelled out in an ecomment to FERC, courts in multiple other cases have directed agencies to use methods which are in fact available.[12] If “the ability to determine localized or regional impacts from GHGs by use of these models is not possible at this time,” FERC should take Sabal Trail out of service and stop approving any more pipelines until such models are possible.

St Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman of Jacksonville, Florida, agreed to sign just after the other eight met FERC’s deadline yesterday. Upstream as the fracked methane flows, Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman, whose rivers run from Georgia through Florida, and Flint Riverkeeper Gordon Rogers and Chattahoochee Riverkeeper Jason Ulseth of Georgia had signed on.

Downstream Indian Riverkeeper Marty Baum signed because the headquarters of FPL and its parent NextEra Energy are in Juno Beach, Florida, in the Indian River watershed. FPL also owns Florida Southeast Connection (FSC), the third part of SMPP, and a connector pipeline from FSC at Indiantown to Riviera Beach.

Riviera Beach is also a port, and thus a likely venue for export of liquid natural gas (LNG) liquified at one of the several LNG export operations already approved at Indiantown. Yet, as the Riverkeepers noted:

  1. The SEIS does not mention Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) export at all, despite multiple LNG export operations already authorized to feed off of Sabal Trail,[6] including Kinder Morgan’s Jacksonville Expansion Project of the Florida Gas Transmission pipeline from Sabal Trail in Suwannee County to Jacksonville, Florida, already issued a FERC Certificate of Convenience and Necessity,[7] Eagle LNG in Jacksonville, planning to feed from FGT JEP,[8] “sized to serve countries in the Caribbean Basin…”,[9] and currently pending an EIS[10] in FERC Docket CP17-41. Methane burned anywhere is a greenhouse gas. Any EIS for Sabal Trail should take into account exports through FGT JEP and Eagle LNG, as well as the numerous other LNG export operations already authorized by the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy. Accounting for LNG export is especially important since there is no need for increased natural gas flow into Florida (see above), thus any increased flow is likely to be exported.

Partners in Sabal Trail Transmission, LLC along with NextEra are Duke Energy of North Carolina and Spectra Energy of Texas, recently bought by Enbridge of Alberta, Canada.

Why should landowners in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida have to give up easements for pipeline owners from Canada and North Carolina, especially if any of the fracked methane is for export? The nine asked for a permanent shutdown:

Beyond rejecting the SEIS, FERC should shut down Sabal Trail and the DC Circuit Court should issue a mandate permanently revoking all the FERC Orders for SMPP, because the “need” alleged by FPL in 2013 has been disproven.

Signing in solidarity were Ogeechee Riverkeeper Simona L. Perry of Savannah, Georgia, with pipeline experience from Pennsylvania; Apalachicola Riverkeeper Dan Tonsmeire, downstream in Florida from Chattahoochee and Flint, and who gets the big picture of fossil fuel regulatory capture; Choctawhatchee Riverkeeper Michael Mullen, whose watershed extends from Alabama through Florida to the Gulf; and Grand Riverkeeper Earl Hatley of Oklahoma, who understands the connections of SMPP to the other crony capitalism he has been fighting for a lifetime. Plus FPL owns a fracking field in Oklahoma, and there’s nothing to stop FPL shipping that fracked methane through Sabal Trail to export from Florida unless Sabal Trail is shut down.

In addition to the destruction and hazards Sabal Trail brings, it eats money and other resources that should be going to solar power for the Sunshine State. The Nine noted:

  1. The SEIS explicitly mentions solar power: “The new capacity is expected to be principally from natural gas (3,395 MW) and solar (1,846 MW), with biomass and landfill gas units making up an additional 320 MW.” Yet it neglects to compare solar emissions (there are none) with methane emissions (no pipeline or natural gas power plant can win that comparison). It also neglects to compare the cost of tripling that solar power number, which would completely replace fracked methane power, with for example the health effects of burning that methane. The need for a direct comparison of solar power with methane is illustrated by the plans of Duke Energy (a 7.5% owner of Sabal Trail) to build a 550-acre 75 megaWatt solar power plant directly adjacent to the Sabal Trail pipeline in Hamilton County, Florida.[11]

Signers Chattahoochee and Flint Riverkeepers are petitioners along with Sierra Club in U.S. DC Circuit Court of Appeals Case No. 16-1329, whose August 27, 2017 decision caused FERC to issue its inadequate SEIS.

Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman remarked, “Maybe FERC for once will do its duty, toss aside that five-page failed SEIS, and hold public hearings in pursuit of a real one. If not, the Court has plenty of further arguments from the Riverkeepers and many other commenters, including ones from as far away as Colorado, Rhode Island, and New York State, to issue a mandate shutting down Sabal Trail, and thus helping the sun rise on Florida.”

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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