Industry press: WWALS and Sierra Club oppose FERC rubberstamp of Sabal Trail compressor stations 2020-04-23

Sabal Trail is no exception to widespread pipeline opposition, notes a prominent fossil fuel industry publication, especially for the recent decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to authorize operation of Sabal Trail’s Phase II Albany, GA, compressor station during a virus pandemic. Neither Platts nor the AJC noted the Dunnellon, FL, compressor station was also authorized in Phase II, even though that site already leaked before station construction started.

[Platts: Sabal Trail Phase II Compressor Stations]
Platts: Sabal Trail Phase II Compressor Stations, from FERC Sabal Trail Final Environmental Impact Statement.

Maya Weber, Joe Fisher ed., S&P Global Platts, 2020-04-23, Sabal Trail gets FERC OK to start compression, over green group objections.

The article first rehearses Sabal Trail’s request for a six-month extension and about-face request for immediate operations, which FERC rubberstamped. You can read about that in more detail in the previous WWALS blog post. That post also has details of the WWALS and Sierra Club objections that the Platts article then notes.

[Site Plan]
Site Plan

Urging denial

Sierra Club and WWALS Watershed Coalition in recent weeks urged FERC to deny the request in separate filings.

“The Albany compressor station would increase air pollution—which has been linked to higher coronavirus death rates—in a predominantly African American community that has ‘one of the highest infection rates in the country,'” wrote Sierra Club attorney Elly Benson in an April 13 letter to FERC, citing news articles. “Now is not the time to needlessly increase the pollution burden on an environmental justice community that is particularly vulnerable to these threats.” She said 84% of residents within a half-mile radius of the Albany facility are African American.


But here’s a name we haven’t seen in a while.

Andrea Grover, a spokeswoman for Enbridge, said Sabal Trail has engaged with the community and state and federal agencies throughout the permitting process in relation to the compressor location. “We continue to actively monitor the situation and are following the latest guidance provided by local, federal and international public health and government authorities. The US Department of Homeland Security has identified energy infrastructure as being critical during the COVID-19 response,” she said.

Of course, “engaged” is pipeline doublespeak for “told”. And “critical” regarding pipelines means big companies might lose income. Also “energy infrastructure” is doublespeak for fossil fuels, when solar, wind, and batteries with local interconnections and a long-distance smart grid would be much more reliable. FERC also approves long-distance power lines, and hasn’t done that much in recent years, while rubberstamping many pipelines.

The efforts to stop the compression come as FERC has heard calls from grassroots environmental groups and some Democratic US House members to put a moratorium on its gas project work amid the coronavirus pandemic.

FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee has called it imperative for FERC to operate as close to normal as possible and continue its gas project reviews so the public will have access to needed energy supplies that will be critical to helping the economy recover.

FERC’s normal operating method is to rubberstamp every pipeline, and this time apparently it was imperative for FERC to rubberstamp Sabal Trail Phase II on Earth Day. The “Regulatory” in FERC’s name is doublespeak for Rubberstamp.

There is some interesting stuff at the end of the Platts article about Sabal Trail being far from the only pipeline with opposition.

Anti-gas activists

Activists opposed to FERC’s infrastructure approvals held a virtual webinar Thursday highlighting efforts around the country to block new natural gas projects, in honor of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

Donna Chavis of Robeson County, North Carolina, and founder of the RedTailed Hawk Collective, described ongoing efforts to pressure North Carolina to withdraw the water quality certification for the 600-mile, 1.5 Bcf/d Atlantic Coast Pipeline, as well as collaboration with landowners resisting offers for land acquisition by natural gas companies.

“We are … able to stay strong even with those limitations” related to rural broadband access, with contacts by phone, email and text, she said. “I think it’s rather surprised the companies. They’re putting much more pressure on landowners to sell out, and coming up with bigger and bigger numbers to offer [landowners] which makes us feel good — means they must feel a little bit of pressure.”

Michael Bagdes-Canning of Marcellus Outreach Butler and Better Path Coalition, said MOB had to cancel face-to-face meetings and instead turn to Zoom to meet objectives of “educating, agitating and activating.”

Allie Rosenbluth of Rogue Climate, which has fought the Jordan Cove LNG project, credited the people sending in comments or showing up to hearings and sit-ins in Oregon Governor Brown’s office with helping motivate the state through its agencies to take positions opposing permits for the project. The state of Oregon has denied a Section 401 water quality certification for the project and objected to a finding that the project was consistent with enforceable standards of the Coastal Zone Management Act.

See also Nedra Rhone, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2020-04-25, Pipeline project continues in Albany, raising concerns amid COVID-19, which goes into some of the history of the Sabal Trail boondoggle. It notes there’s a petition to ask Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and FERC to stop operation of the Albany Compressor Station.

Remember, that same FERC Earth Day rubberstamp also authorized turning on the Dunnellon, FL, compressor station, nevermind Sabal Trail leaked hazardous Mercaptan odorant there multiple times even before Phase II construction started.

[Site Plan]
Site Plan

FERC’s John Peconom authorized Sabal Trail Phase II construction back in January 2019, so it took Sabal Trail 14 months to build two compressor stations. No wonder they are more than two years by the original deadline.


For a pipeline, never would be better than late.

Solar power now!

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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