You can see U.S. Congress member Ted Yoho FL-03 and a staffer for Sen. Bill Nelson discuss water, air, energy, growth, and past and future generations with local citizens environmental groups, including Suwannee County residents plainly saying they’re in the incineration zone. You can see for yourself sinkholes Sabal Trail omitted from what it told FERC. Soon we hope to see letters from Ted Yoho and Bill Nelson to the Corps and to FERC.
Below are links to the WWALS videos of the event, with many notes. For handouts, still pictures, and more information about this event of Sunday morning May 15th 2016, see previous post.
Introduction and Issues (part 1)
Video. Attendees in order of introduction:
- Deanna Mericle, Hamilton County resident, WWALS member, and MC of this event.
- Clyde Fleming, Suwannee County Commisisoner and vice-chair, Suwannee BOCC,
who took time out from his family reunion to attend.
He read from
the letter from Suwannee County to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
He said first he hiked the route, then he got
the rest of the Suwannee Commissioners to hike it.
Since then we have sent a letter, hoping they will take this into consideration, to drill under the Suwannee River, and not even enter Suwannee County.
- Gale Dickert, Water and Wetlands Chair, Madison Garden Club, invited Suwannee County to join Madison County in passing an ordinance against fracking. She pointed out the counties that have passed such ordinances or resolutions against fracking represent almost 15 million people, or 75% of Florida’s population. She may not have been aware Suwannee County already passed a resolution against fracking, but of course an ordinance, which is a law, would be even better.
- Maryvonne Devensky, Chair, Suwannee-St Johns Group, Florida Chapter of Sierra Club, presented Ted Yoho, the letter the Marion BOCC sent to the Corps.
- Debra Johnson, Board Member, SpectraBusters, opposing the pipeline for three years now, and a member of WWALS.
- Kerry Waldron grew up in Hamilton County, lives in Suwannee County, and is Administrator of the Florida Department of Health in Suwannee and Lafayette Counties.
- Jerry Bullard of Jasper, Hamilton County, with “an interest in our enviroment and our rivers and aquifer”, and candidate for Florida House District 10 (incumbent Elizabeth Porter was invited, but did not attend).
Nancy Krupp lives on the Suwannee River in Hamilton County,
I’m very much concerned about the pipeline, and the effects it’s going to have on the river and the water aquifer in our state.
Vicky Peurrung of O’Brien, Suwannee County, Florida,
The compressor station is about half a mile behind my house, and there are a lot of sinkholes that we are very concerned about because I think we’ll have a complete disaster.I have a security company that’s right there in that area, and many homes, and I represent everybody there.
- Noah Valenstein, Executive Director, Suwannee River Water Management District. He said nothing else for the camera, but he did say after the event that he would talk to the Corps about doing it right.
- Keith Hughes, the bus driver. Thanks to the Hamilton County, FL School Board for a bus, paid for by WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc.
- Kimberly Williams, Clean Water Network, who came down from DC for this event, which was her idea in the first place.
Jennifer Rubiello, Environment Florida, a citizen-funded environmental advocacy group, issued a
press release May 17th 2016:
“The Sabal Trail pipeline is a clear example of how we can’t trust the oil and gas industry to protect our air, water, and public health,” said Jennifer Rubiello, director of Environment Florida. “Especially here in the Sunshine State, we need to be moving away from dirty fossil fuels and towards clean, renewable energy like solar and wind.”
- George Dierker, here with his wife Jean, “she belongs to every club there is.”
Jean Dierker, Sierra Club, WWALS, SpectraBusters, Greenpeace,
My heart is in this, I’m against this pipeline, and for our environment and water.
Shannon Larsen, Ancient Trees, came up from Placid Lake, Florida to support
Chris to stop this project.
I feel like drilling would be absolutely devastating, and we can’t let it happen.
Bobby C. Billie,
spiritual and family leader of the
Independent Miccosukee Simanolee Nation,
Our people are always concerned about the future generations. The way that our elders taught us, if God’s gift will disappear, we’re all going to disappear. That’s what we see in the entire world happen. We’ve got to educate people, let’s save something what the god has gave us, to pass it on to the next generation.
Ted Yoho, Florida’s Third Congressional District,
thanked Chris and Marihelen for keeping him informed.
We’re all concerned about the environment, obviously. I live on well water and I want clean water and clean air, just like we all do.
I’ve seen, you know, I’m 61, I was born in ’55; we’ve seen bad pollution, and we’ve seen the effects of good policies to correct those things….
As you brought up, we’re at 20 million people in our state now, we’re growing to 30 million in the next 15 to 20 years. But we can’t plan on 30 million people. We need to plan on 50 to 60 million people, and do the things we have to do today.
I was lucky or fortunate to go on a trip to South America. And in South America we went to Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Costa Rica (that wasn’t really in South America; it’s in Centra America). But the thing that amazed me was that in Paraguay they have a hydroelectric dam that supplies 70% of the electricity for that country. 70% of electricity that this generation is living on. And it was because of decisions they made 50 or 60 years ago.
That’s where we are today. That’s what today is about. We are going to need more energy. Where are you going to get the energy.
Those are the things that we have to make the decisions so when we do these things, we need to make sure we do them right.
You know, you guys have been great advocates against the trail coming through here, and I understand that and I hear you. I represent you guys. I don’t represent Spectra. And if your concerns and my concerns to are, when you drill under a river bed, even though they can tell me, it’s not going to cause a problem, I don’t know what’s under there. And my concern is like yours, if you drill under there, if you hit a karst, or you hit [a conduit] or close to one of those shoots going down in the limerock, what happens if you hit the wrong one. That’s my concern as yours is. Yes, I want the energy, but is there a better way to bring it in.
And I don’t know if you guys know, there’s two solar farms that are going in in north central Florida, one in Columbia County, one in Alachua County. That’s 150 megawatts of solar power.
[Voice off-screen: “One in Leon.”]
One in Leon? And those are great supplementals. They aren’t going to be baseline energy projects.
Nuclear, we’ve got four plants in Levy County, nuclear plants that have been permitted, but they wil probably never be built.
And I’m taking up too much time, I’m sorry. [cross-talk]
The thing is, we’re setting, this generation here, is setting, or making decisions that will affect Florida for 50, 60, 100 years. Let’s get it right, and I’ll work with you.
Water, Energy, Growth, and Solar Power
Video. More introductions.
- Marihelen Wheeler, Gainesville, candidate for Florida House District 21, turned to Yoho and said, “your representative.”
Jim Tatum, Our Santa Fe River, Fort White,
I live right on the river bank, I love the Santa Fe and I want to do everything I can to protect it, the Suwannee, and our aquifer.
See Our Santa Fe River, 16 May 2016, Sabal Trail Walk Inspires,
As a result of the walk on Sunday we have Rep. Yoho’s commitment to make sure the word will be out. Our thanks go to him, Noah Valenstein, and all the others who took time out of their day off on Sunday to spend learning about environmental issues.
Mary Louise Hester, regional director in Tallahassee for Senator Bill Nelson,
I’m just here to find out what I can and share with him.
- Judson Hester.
Maggie McDonald said,
We live south of here on the Suwannee, we’re concerned about the pipeline, also we’re members of the Suwannee Chapter of Florida Trails Association.
Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, Policy Director for Our Santa Fe River,
a citizen-based group, non-profit. I’m also a ecotourism business owner that uses the Santa Fe River for our livelihood and our customers. I also live on the Santa Fe River and I’m a member of WWALS.
I’ve been working with a number of citizens across the state of Florida to stop fracking, and we’ve been very successful. We hope to have a ban on fracking this legislative year.
I’m also one of the people along with John and the Mericles and Debra and many others in this group and these folks who come often, who have been very hard to stop this pipeline because of the damage we know will happen when, if, it gets its way.
And once we go on this walk, you all are going to see the things we saw in the paperwork regarding their omissions and their blatant disregard for our environment, in the paperwork for the EIS, the Environmental Impact Statement. So I’m glad everybody’s here.
See also Ocala StarBanner, 29 May 2016, Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson and Jim Tatum: Pipeline is a needless threat to Florida,
Florida does not need this threat to our environment and Sabal Trail should not be allowed to construct the pipeline.
Norm McDonald, resident of Suwannee County, landowner, ten acres,
Maggie and I live just south of Charles Springs, which was the first federally-funded project to cross the Suwannee River, Bellamy Road. Lots has happened since then, and I’m learning tons every day about what’s happening in this area.
I do want to share with you this issue about growth. I went to a big meeting in High Springs. Dr. Robert Knight was there. He stood up in front of everybody and talked about all the scientific stuff that’s going on, about the degradation of water, about all the adverse things that are happening with water. And then in the bottom line, and this was supposed to be the best news that’s happening for the Suwannee River. The bottom line, he looked out at this whole group of all these river organizations and said,
“If today we enforce every rule and regulation that’s on the books already for water, crossed every T, dotted every I, and then, on top of it, employed, invoked, everything we want to happen, would it make any difference?”
[McDonald stands up.] He looked up at the group and he said, “Not much.” [McDonald shrugged his shoulders.]
Big gasp. Big gasp in the group. Not much until you deal with the issue of growth. Growth is the driving force, and all the other management issues that we try to do, won’t stop it, until we deal with growth.
Ted Yoho nodded his head.
Eileen Box, landowner and 47 year resident of Suwannee County,
I actually have a pipeline already going through my property and I have a wetlands on my property. My pipeline is well over twenty years old, so I’m already concerned about its condition and its maintenance. So this is just adding layer upon layer of those kinds of things.
Janet Barrow, Dunnellon area, Marion County,
My husband manages a cattle ranch down there. We’ve been there for over thirty years. I have the benefit of having lived on the land and seeing karst and the wildlife. And now Sabal Trail wants to come through about six or seven miles of it including sand hills, sinkhole areas, wetlands, and then they’ll cross the Withlacoochee [South] River.
I’ve also had the benefit of knowing how the review process goes in the field. And I’ve been speaking out several times to FERC and other agencies. I’m very disillusioned with the government review and permitting process. I’ve been in touch with your office and Bill Nelson’s office. And I want to have appointments….
I also tried to talk to DEP. They couldn’t talk to me about the karst, the differences I see in the karst in Marion County and what was reported int he Final Environmental Impact Statement. They couldn’t talk to me because there was a lawsuit going on. And so even though that lawsuit is closed they just couldn’t talk to me….
Presumably the lawsuit was WWALS v Sabal Trail & DEP.
I’m glad this is going on and we have this chance for a forum, to see what’s going on here in the Suwannee area, because it’s going on in Marion County, too.
Lori McCraney, longtime resident Suwannee County,
I live on the river just a few miles upstream from here. I’ve spent hundreds, maybe thousands, of hours on this river and in this park particularly over the decades. I’m very protective of it. I joined WWALS to help protect the local environment.
And I’m also very concerned on more of a global level, when I see going on with energy copmanies. I see the fossil fuel industry in a rapid decline with their rising prices and a variety of factors. And I also see a rapidly rising solar industry that is making technological progress by leaps and bounds every day.
I think it is a huge mistake for us as a people to employ this rapid buildout of the fossil fuel infrastructure when thirty years from now it will become more and more irrelevant as times go on. So I’d like to see a ground shift to renewable energy. Because I also see this planet cannot take increased carbon emissions for decades to come. We’re already at a breaking point. So I’m trying to act locally to affect a global problem as well, protecting the environment.
Beth Burnham, Hamilton County Commissioner, District 1,
The pipeline would go under the Withlacoochee River while it’s still up in Georgia, but then it would come right down through my district… so obviously we’re very concerned.
She handed Ted Yoho a copy of the Hamilton County letter to the Corps, remarking that it is like the one already read from Suwannee County. Actually, it’s the other way around: Suwannee County copied Hamilton County, and later Marion County wrote their own letter.
Chris Mericle pointed out,
Hamilton County has been the first of the counties to do a lot of things. The first to write that letter.
David Shields, Suwannee County,
I moved here with my family from Jacksonville. Moved here to do organic farming…. Unfortunately perhaps going to be neighbors to a time bomb, or what they call a compressor station, built by Sabal Trail, so we’re obviously in opposition to that. We have quite a few children and being a quarter mile a way is not not exactly something we like to do, or anybody.
Dennis Price, Geologist,
I moved to this area right after college in 1974, to work for the phosphate mine. There’s nothing like mining to get an understanding of what’s below your feet. I make my living off of industry. I’m not opposed to industry coming into this area. But my whole life has been spent in these woods my family was raised in these woods, and I still use these woods. I like ’em. I don’t want to see them disappear slowly. We need to be careful what we do.
John S. Quarterman, Lowndes County, Georgia, President, WWALS Watershed Coalition,
…just upstream from Madison County. I live about three miles from the Withlacoochee River. And the pipeline would still cross the Withlacoochee River in Georgia. You’re fortunate because of the Hamilton County Commission and the Mericles and many others, it’s not going to cross the Withlacoochee River in Florida. They actually got Sabal Trail and FERC to move it off the Withlacoochee River in Florida.
For many of the same reasons you’re going to hear about related to the Suwannee River. Which leads to the question, wait a minute! Why should it still be permitted to cross the Suwannee? But you’ll hear a lot more about that.
As the president of the nominal host organization, I’d really like to thank you [Ted Yoho] for coming.
[Ted Yoho: “Yes sir.”]
As you know, I’ve been talking to your colleague Austin Scott right across the state line, Georgia District Eight. We’ve been talking to Sanford Bishop, Georgia District Two, and several others.
Of course, what we’re hoping for is a bipartisan bistate coalition to ask the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to open a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement. Because there’s far too much for even Dennis and Chris to get through in one meeting. And it all neesd to be fed in. A lot of it has been ignored by Sabal Trail, rejected by FERC, or not even listened to by FERC.
Rep. Bishop GA-02 did write a letter to the Corps asking for a SEIS. We’re still expecting letters from Ted Yoho FL-03, Austin Scott GA-08, and others.
And I’d like to say this is definitely not just WWALS. You’ve heard all the different groups, and not even all the groups are here. I do believe this meeting, was it not Kimberly’s idea? And she came all the way from DC, as you all heard. Thank you all for coming, espcially thanks to the staffer for Senator Nelson, and Congressman, thank you.
Not present, Johanna de Graffenreid,
Coastal Campaign Organizer,
Gulf Restoration Network,
A Supplemental Environmental Impact Study (SEIS) would open up a new comment period where we could all put this information on the record & the Corps would have to consider it. Pretty much *no agency* does a fully independent study *on just one project* on their own dime. They will study all the pipelines across the country, or how their Mobile office responds to permits over a 5 year period for example, but they simply don’t have the staff nor the legal obligation to fund their own studies of each individual permit that is requested (they get hundreds a year).
With a SEIS we have the opportunity to be the insurance company to Sabal Trail, ike a car insurer regarding a drivers license. We can tell the Army Corps Sabal Trail is are too big of a risk to be given a license.
Willard Randall, Columbia County, Florida,
but I pipelined all across the United States.
- Jake Galvin, reporter, Florida Bulldog, invited everybody to form a line afterwards to talk to him.
- Chris Mericle, Board Member, WWALS Watershed Coalition, introduced himself, before starting his presentation, which is in the next video.
Sabal Trail discrepancies, Suwannee River, Falmouth Cavern –Chris Mericle
Video. Presentation of geological discrepancies by Chris Mericle, Board Member, WWALS Watershed Coalition, who concluded:
It’s my feeling history will judge us, today, whether we’ve been good stewards, or not, of this river.
Anytime they hit a conduit they’re going to blow into it –Dennis Price
Video. At the affected area in Hamilton County, where Sabal Trail would drill under Suwannee River State Park and then under the Suwannee River, Dennis Price, Practicing Geologist, said:
Any time they hit a conduit, they’re going to blow into it.
He characterized that particular sinkhole as relatively stable, since it has trees growing in it, but active with a conduit.
- Biggest sinkhole events caused by man, then drought, then rain –Dennis Price
- Watch your step
This one is moving; drill will move into it and wash it out –Dennis Price
Video. Dennis Price said:
This is going to happen continously. What will happen is they’ve disturbed underground the entire way. It will constantly adjust itself. These trees will constantly die, some not for years, but the root system may be holding it up, and then the caverns below it….
Farmers clear new land in these karst areas. It takes a while, but pretty soon when the roots start dying, holes start opening up, and things start collapsing into them.
John S. Quarterman asked what happens if something happens later to open a cavern under the pipeline? Chris Mericle answered:
I can tell you what their documents say on that. It does say the hundred foot span, but it says they’ve only successfully spanned fifteen feet.
A leak under here will go first into the water, conduits, wells, before air
Video. Dennis Price said 300 foot deep sinkholes are common.
So it’s not just that he’s going undergound 60 feet and he’s safe because he’s in that limestone. He’s going undergound 60 feet he’s going to hit possibly a conduit that’s a hundred feet deep. There are fracture traces are probably thousands of feet deep because they are part of the Ocala Uplift.
Ted Yoho asked:
From a geological standpoint there’s no way to predict what’s between here there as far as those caverns or conduits, right?
The conduits yes, the caverns, no.
Can you pick it up from Landsat satellites, any of that?
Not necessarily. You look at these fracture traces and you know they’re along these fractures. The fractures go deep. When they’re below 300 feet, they’re probably just a fracture trace, like I say, because they’ve never encountered that tannic water that erodes through the eons; from there up, they have. And so you can predict caverns in the sense that there’s a fracture trace, you know there’s going to be a cavern below it. But, you know, every well driller will tell you they never drill a well without hitting a cavern.
Lori McCraney pointed out if there’s a cavern that causes a leak,
It could leak literally for years and years and travel underground for a long period of town before it’s ever detected. And when it does show up in someone’s well, there’s no accountability. Oh, well, it’s that pipeline they built on the Suwannee River there.
David Shields answered a question about pressure.
1400 PSI. For the incinerator range, 1400 PSI in a 36-inch pipe is 3,000 feet. So basically 3,000 feet in either direction would be a mandatory evacuation as it would destroy it within a few minutes.
Ted Yoho asked:
3,000 feet, and you’re only a quarter mile?
Vicki Peurrung added:
He’s behind me. We would incinerate.
Dave Shields noted:
A compressor site just popped off in PA a couple weeks ago. They say they’re safe; they keep on blowing up, though.
Lori McCraney pointed out no spark would be needed, since the pressure could set off an explosion. Dave Shields noted there should be no lack of sparks, since they want to build the compressor station under a power line.
Gale Dickert brought up the 1998 Perry Florida compressor station explosion. Taylor County & Perry, Florida History, Gas Plant Fire,
The gas plant compressor station on Pisgah Road suffered a lightning strike Friday afternoon shortly after 2:00 pm which resulted in an explosion and fire which was followed later by an additional explosion and fire which caused several employees and fire fighters to be burned and 6 homes destroyed.
Ted Yoho asked if anybody got the original notice that Sabal Trail sent to the city of Suwannee, instead of the county of Suwannee. Nobody did.
Still more sinkholes; LiDAR map shows them continuing
Video. Dennis Price said of Sabal Trail knowing what’s underground:
They don’t know. They didn’t do enough drilling to know.
- Same geology exists under the river, less clay and sand holding it together
Prayer for future generations –Bobby C. Billie
- Bobby C. Billie, spiritual and family leader of the Independent Miccosukee Simanolee Nation, prayed in his language that we would all do right by future generations.
- Gale Dickert, Water and Wetlands Chair, Madison Garden Club, talked about recent success in opposing fracking at the Florida legislature and noted we need regulations to preserve our waters.
Kimberly Williams, Common Ground –Dennis Price, 7 Generations –John Quarterman
Kimberly Williams, Clean Water Network, who came down from DC for this,
admitted the event was her idea, and said:
Seeing what we’ve all talked about, it’s been really sobering, and I’m glad to see people taking action and spreading the word and raising the visibility of this issue; it’s very important.
Dennis Price said he was always told White Springs was
common ground for the native Americans.
They came there for healing, not for fighting.
And when we walk through this forest, none of these trees were probably here, the native Americans were here. You can sense this whole mystical; I’m not even into this stuff necessarily, but I get that feeling. My entire life, I’ve lived around here, I’ve lived in these woods. And I can hear the towers peal out their Stephen Foster songs in Stephen Foster Park I can hear it; everybody in White Springs can hear it. That reminds you what we had in the past and what we’d like to have in the future.
John S. Quarterman said seven generations behind us look down on
what we do with what they left us here,
And seven generations ahead of us will look back at what we do.
I handed Yoho the longer invitation from WWALS to the Corps to come see for themselves, and noted it describes connected yet segmented pipelines, liquid natural gas (LNG) export projects already approved right where these pipelines go, power plants that don’t have to be there. And not just in Florida, also in Georgia, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere.
The Georgia legislature on March 22nd voted 128 to 34 to deny easements for Sabal Trail to drill under rivers in Georgia. Which indicates to me this is not a partisan issue, or a geographical issue: it is a winning issue.
- Kimberly Williams, Clean Water Network, who came down from DC for this, admitted the event was her idea, and said:
Ted Yoho Speaking at Elected Officials Hike
Rep. Ted Yoho FL-03 turned to Chris Mericle and said:
And I want to thank you. You’ve been diligent, ever since I got into office, bringing this to our attention. And to see the discrepancies between what was reported and what we see first hand, I mean these are questions that have to be answered. And so we’ll fight to get those answers before it goes anywhere else. You have my commitment on that.
And, uh, we have to have that balance. Because I know not everybody thinks like I do, and I know people will say “thank God” [laughs]. But not everybody thinks the way you do. But in between we have to put that common goal. And it’s hard to find that common goal. It’s not a Republican issue, it’s not a Democratic issue, it’s an American issue. And it’s a Florida issue, and we have to make sure, like you said [gesturing at jsq], generations from now they’ll look back at us. And I want them to say, “you know what? those guys were smart; they did a good thing”.
I think that’s all of our goals, and so you have my commitment to make sure. And we’ll weigh in with you guys to let you know which way it’s going.
Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson spoke up:
One more thing on that, we hope that you will take those letters that have already been written to the Army Corps of Engineers, that’s their next line. All we want are true environmental impact studies done, not the one…
Rep. Yoho interjected:
No, they need to be, though. Because I mean, that’s not a problem. We’ve got a great relationship with them and I’ll ask them. They were just up in our office and we’ll say we need to revisit this before we go any further.
I’m real concerned about that.
John S. Quarterman added:
We have a letter drafted for you and Congressmen Scott and Bishop to consider.
Is it in the package you gave me?
It’s in the bus, I’ll get it for you, and I’ll send you the PDF.
Yeah, make sure we get it. We have a great team of people that work with us up there, and and we’ll make sure we weigh in on it properly.
Before Rep. Yoho left, I (jsq) handed him (and the thirty other people at the event) that draft letter for him to send to the Corps asking for a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement. We’re still looking forward to him sending such a letter, like Rep. Sanford Bishop GA-02 already did.
Here’s a video playlist:
Elected Officials see sinkholes where Sabal Trail would cross Suwannee River State Park
Videos by John S. Quarterman for WWALS Watershed Coalition (WWALS).
Sunday May 15th 2016, Suwannee River State Park
You can use these videos in your own social media or publications, provided you cite the source: WWALS Watershed Coalition, www.wwals.net, with the one exception noted above.
You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!