FERC and Sabal Trail admit Sierra Club won 2018-07-03

One week after losing a jury trial in the U.S. Middle District Court of Georgia, the Sabal Trail fracked methane pipeline and its purveyor of federal eminent domain, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), declined to appeal their huge DC District Court loss of last August.

Sierra Club, Press Release, 3 July 2018, Fracked Gas Pipeline Company and Federal Regulator Will Not Seek Supreme Court Review of Landmark Ruling: Existing Decision Means FERC Must Consider Downstream Greenhouse Gas Emissions,

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Neither the builders of the fracked gas Sabal Trail Pipeline nor the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will ask the Supreme Court to review a landmark ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit from last year. That decision required FERC to consider the effects of downstream greenhouse gases when deciding whether to approve proposed pipelines that transport gas.

In response, Sierra Club Staff Attorney Elly Benson released the following statement:

Elly Benson, Sierra Club Attorney
Elly Benson, Sierra Club Staff Attorney

“We are glad to see FERC accept its responsibility to consider greenhouse gas emissions from burning transported gas at downstream power plants. These dirty, dangerous, and unnecessary pipelines pose a threat to our communities and climate. They should not be proposed, much less built, at a time when clean, renewable energy sources are abundant and affordable. We will continue to monitor the pipeline permitting process to ensure the law is followed.”

The pipeline industry press was not thrilled. Charlie Passut, Natural Gas Intelligence, 5 July 2018, FERC Declines to Appeal Landmark GHG Case to Supreme Court,

FERC will not ask the Supreme Court to review a landmark district court ruling that found the Commission failed to adequately consider the impact of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions before issuing a favorable environmental review for a trio of natural gas pipeline projects in the Southeast.

Spokeswoman Celeste Miller of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission confirmed to NGI on Thursday that the Commission “did not file for Supreme Court review” a ruling issued last August by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Sierra Club et al v. FERC, No. 16-1329.

The district court ruling had concurred with environmental groups that FERC failed to adequately consider the impact of GHG when it issued a favorable environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Southeast Market Pipelines (SMP) project in December 2015. District court records indicated that FERC had until last Monday (July 2) to file a petition for a writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court.

Last March, FERC voted 3-2 to reinstate certification for SMP, which includes the Sabal Trail, Hillabee Expansion and Florida Southeast Connection pipeline projects. Commissioner Richard Glick dissented in reinstating the certifications and Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur dissented in part.

FERC’s vote followed a decision by the district court to deny a request by SMP’s sponsors to stay issuance of a mandate over the projects for 90 days. But the district court granted a motion by the Commission for a 45-day stay….

And during those 45 days FERC rubberstamped a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) and “reinstated” the pipeline permits, which left the court’s mandate applying only to the permits of the previous FERC order.

KallanishEnergy, 6 July 2018, Appeals court verdict will stand on pipelines, climate change,

…The appeals court had vacated the pipeline permit for the $3.5 billion Southeast Markets Pipeline Project in three states because FERC had not fully considered the climate change impacts of the pipelines.

The court ruled FERC had failed to properly analyze the climate impact from the burning of natural gas the project would deliver to Florida power plants under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Later, FERC issued a revised Environmental Impact Statement for the three pipeline projects in Alabama, Georgia and especially Florida. It then approved the pipeline projects.

The pipelines stretch 685 miles to bring natural gas to Florida power plants. They include the Sabal Trail Pipeline, Florida Southeast Connection and Transco’s Hillabee Expansion. The pipelines are all in service.

Does that seem right to you? Before the court process could be completed, FERC’s rubberstamps enabled Spectra Energy (now Enbridge), NextEra (FPL’s parent), and Duke Energy to bury a 685-mile stranded-asset IED under our rivers, through our lands, and far too near our schools and hospitals. This process is broken and needs to be fixed. No more pipelines. Let the sun rise.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®
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