Tag Archives: Law

A Bill of Rights for Nature

Does it seem most of the agencies, laws, and rules are rigged for big corporations and against local private property rights, against local fishing, swimming, boating, and hunting, and against organizations like Riverkeepers and Waterkeepers?

Turbidity curtains and black pipe from the north bank
View from the south bank of Sabal Trail fracked methane pipeline turbidity curtains and pipe, collecting drilling fluid frac-out from pilot hole, taken from the north bank of the Withlacoochee River, about 2000 feet upstream from the US 84 bridge.
Photo: John S. Quarterman, October 22nd 2016.

One approach to change that is a Bill of Rights for Nature (BOR), to change the legal structure so rivers, swamps, aquifers, lakes, etc. presumptively have rights that corporations have to prove they are not violating.

For example, Suwannee Riverkeeper is helping oppose a company that wants to mine titanium within three miles of the Okefenokee Swamp, which is the headwaters of the Suwannee and St. Mary’s Rivers, and above the Floridan Aquifer, from which all of south Georgia and north Florida drinks.

http://wwals.net/issues/titanium-mining/

[Tribal Grounds west along GA 94 to TPM equipment, 12:38:38, 30.5257540, -82.0411100]
Tribal Grounds west along GA 94 to TPM equipment, 12:38:38.
Photo: John S. Quarterman for WWALS, on Southwings flight, pilot Allen Nodorft, 2019-10-05.

We shouldn’t have to get more than 20,000 comments sent to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (you can still comment) pointing out that the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge contributes far more jobs (700+) and other economic benefits (more than $60 million/year) to the region and to Florida and Georgia than even the wildest promises of the miners (150-200 as in the application? 300? 350, as they told some reporters?), and the mine would risk all that, including boating, fishing, and birding in the Swamp and hunting around it. We should be able to point to the rights of the Swamp, Rivers, and Aquifer, and the miners should have to prove beyond a shadow a doubt that they would not violate them.

When the Georgia House of Representatives overwhelmingly refused to grant easements for the Sabal Trail fracked methane pipeline to drill under Georgia rivers, Continue reading

Two thirds of SRWMD Board half there 2019-09-18

It was surprisingly interactive meeting, with the Board members repeatedly questioning staff about multiple projects, sometimes taking up points raised from the audience. One Board Member even stopped a project. Yet half the rump board was not visible, being on the telephone, and the Budget Public Hearing may or may not have been legal.

Nestlé Water Withdrawal Permits

At the rescheduled September SRWMD Board meeting, OSFR President Mike Roth questioned the validity of the permitting process for Nestlé’s proposed 1.2 million gallon per day water withdrawal from Ginnie Springs on the Santa Fe River, since the actual application is from Seven Springs, which proposes to sell the water to Nestlé, which is not a use authorized by Florida Statutes.

[OSFR President]
OSFR President

I seconded that, and added that the SRWMD Board should revisit Nestlé’s permit for water withdrawal at Madison Blue Springs on the Withlacoochee River, since Florida Statutes to authorize them to do that.

You can comment to SRWMD about Nestlé’s permits.

Photo: Jim Tatum for OSFR, of Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman
Photo: Jim Tatum for OSFR, of Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman

Afterwards, SRWMD’s Tom Mirti told me the $70,000 contract with SRWMD for Nestlé to support springs water quality monitoring is required by the Nestlé permit for Madison Blue Spring, even though it has to be negotiated separately. Apparently yet another open records request is needed.

Invisible and Missing Board Members

Continue reading

AGL pipeline explosion settlement deferred again by GA-PSC for state-wide safety: needs to add LNG 2019-09-19

For more time to examine where gas detectors are needed throughout the state, GA-PSC has again deferred voting on the AGL settlement. As Commissioner Jason Shaw said at the first deferral Tuesday, they want to “make sure that all across the state we can make sure that this type of equipment…” is available.

Plus GA-PSC should take a hard look at AGL subsidiary Pivotal LNG’s Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) liquefaction facilities and truck and train routes from them to Jacksonville, Florida, especially since the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has shirked its oversight duties for inland LNG facilities.

AGL pipeline map, Georgia
Georgia, AGL Pipeline Map, in Homerville, GA pipeline explosion, by John S. Quarterman, 17 August 2018

AGL has pipelines all over the state of Georgia. I don’t know any reason to believe any of them are any safer than the one that goes from my property in Lowndes County to Homerville in Clinch County (and to Moody Air Force Base, to parts of Valdosta, to Ray City in Berrien County, and to Lakeland in Lanier County).

The map above is the newest I could find online. It was last updated in 2008, more than a decade ago. No doubt AGL can provide the PSC with more current mapping data. Maybe the PSC could require AGL to provide an updated map to the public.

The Public Map Viewer by the Pipeline and Hazardous Safety Administration (PHMSA) is no help: it does not include AGL’s distribution pipelines such as the one to Homerville.

PHMSA was sufficiently concerned about the Homerville Coffee Corner explosion that it wrote on AGL’s report to PHMSA: Continue reading

Make sure we have an adequate amount for departments all across the state in AGL settlement –GA-PSC Commissioner Jason Shaw 2019-09-17

Deferred: the AGL gas explosion settlement agreement, to be sure enough county fire departments are covered, and there is “an adequate amount” to do that. Maybe now Lowndes County and Berrien County and Ray City can be added to the list of departments to get gas detection equipment. No doubt AGL will be happy to provide more funds to accomplish this prevention of explosions such as happened last fall in Homerville, GA.

[Commissioner Jason Shaw]
Commissioner Jason Shaw

Thanks to Commissioner Jason Shaw for speaking up for the people of the state of Georgia at this morning’s GA-PSC meeting.

I would like to hold item R1. I think there are some questions.

Continue reading

AGL pipeline explosion settlement down to 10% on GA-PSC agenda tomorrow morning 2019-09-16 2019-09-17

Update 2019-09-17: Decision deferred for questions.

AGL has whittled GA-PSC staff’s recommended fine of $2,305,000.00 down to $250,000, on the theory that prevention is the goal, not punishment. This item is on GA-PSC’s agenda for 9AM tomorrow morning, September 16 17, 2019. There will be live stream of audio.

[5701 Quarterman Road]
AGL President Bryan Batson (in green shirt) at 5701 Quarterman Road, Lowndes County, Georgia

$110,000 of the settlement is to go to fire departments for gas detectors, plus $70,000 on water and sewer damage prevention educational programs, and $70,000 to the Georgia Pipeline Emergency Responder Initiative (GPERI). At least that $250,000 is 25 times the usual fine. And despite the usual disclaimers of no admission of fault, etc., there is this:

The stipulation states that AGL cannot recover any of the $250,000.00 through rates or by ratepayers. Additionally, if AGLC receives any tax benefits as a result of utilizing the money, all benefits must be passed on to ratepayers.

When Tom Krause, Public Information Office, GA-PSC, sent me these documents about noon today, he added:

As I said, the PSC is continuing investigations into the contractor and the City of Homerville regarding this incident.

Plus there are quite likely private lawsuits still pending.

GA-PSC composed “a list of the 85 fire departments within AGLC’s certificated territory that could receive the gas detectors.”

[Fire Department List Homerville AGL]
Fire Department List Homerville AGL
PDF

Curiously, while Hahira is on that list, Lowndes County is not, even though Continue reading

Deadline: today to comment to USACE against titanium mine near Okefenokee Swamp 2019-09-12

Please send your comments today to the Army Corps and GA-EPD against the proposed titanium mine far too near the Okefenokee Swamp, which is the headwaters of the Suwannee River.

How to Comment

The nominal comment deadline was Thursday, September 12, 2019, but the Corps will not say it will not read comments sent in later, so you can still send in your comments, and post them on social media, as op-eds, etc.

To comment, or to request a public hearing, you can write to
Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District,
Attention: Ms. Holly Ross, 1104 North Westover Boulevard, Suite 9, Albany, Georgia, 31707,
or by email to holly.a.ross@usace.army.mil.
In your comments please refer to:
Applicant: Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, Application Number: SAS-2018-00554.

For the requested state permit regarding Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, you can send a comment or request for public hearing to
Stephen Wiedl, Wetlands Unit, stephen.wiedl@dnr.ga.gov
Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Division, Water Protection Branch, 7 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, Atlanta, Georgia 30334.

More than 12,000 people have already commented. You can, too.

[Signs]
Photo: John S. Quarterman, before 2019-08-13 TPM meeting. L-r: Mark Lyons of Citizens Against Phosphate Mining, Alice Keyes of One Hundred Miles, Hilda Gilchrist of Our Santa Fe River (OSFR), Jim Tatum of OSFR and WWALS, Rena Peck Stricker of Georgia River Network, Mike Roth and Kristin Rubin of OSFR and WWALS, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper, Merillee Malwitz-Jipson of OSFR and WWALS

Here’s why.

Julia Widmann, Waterkeeper Alliance, 23 August 2019, Suwannee Riverkeeper Fights to Protect Okefenokee Swamp from Titanium Strip Mine,

Twin Pines Minerals, LLC (TPM), an Alabama-based mining company, applied for permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Georgia Department of Environmental Protection to mine for titanium near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, which is the headwaters of the Suwannee and St. Marys Rivers in Southern Georgia. The Suwannee flows south through Florida to the Gulf of Mexico, and the St. Marys becomes the border between Georgia and Florida on its way to the Atlantic.

John was quoted in the first news story about the mine, by Emily Jones of Georgia Public Broadcasting on July 15, “The most obvious thing that we really need is a real environmental impact statement. All we have so far is, ‘this is what the applicant said.’”

Both Suwannee Riverkeeper and Southern Environmental Law Center have prepared comments which will go in went in today. If your organization wants to sign on, please contact me ASAP, at contact@suwanneeriverkeeper.org send in your own comments saying you support the Suwannee Riverkeeper comments.

Or you can just send in your own comments directly. Doesn’t have to be long. A sentence will do.

Much more about the proposed mine is here:
wwals.net/issues/titanium-mining/

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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

Nobody needs Nestle water bottles from our river and spring water –Suwannee Riverkeeper on RT.com 2019-08-29

RT carried a surprisingly long objection to Nestlé’s water withdrawals from Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman, interviewed via skype from London on Wednesday, posted Thursday.

[No need for water in plastic bottles]
No need for water in plastic bottles

Remember to send your comment to the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) asking them to deny Nestlé’s request to withdraw more water from the Santa Fe River at Ginnie Springs.

RT, YouTube, 29 August 2019, Nestle seeks to extract millions of liters of water from Florida’s ‘fragile’ Santa Fe river, Continue reading

Brooks County landowners challenge NextEra solar exception 2019-08-29

Clearcutting of upland forests, due process failures at the public hearing, spot zoning, violations of local ordinances, and failure to adhere to the Brooks County’s own Comprehensive Plan are among the grounds on which landowners are going to sue to overturn the Commission’s unanimous decision at the beginning of August to approve a Special Exception for NextEra Energy of Juno Beach, Florida, to build a 150 megawatt solar farm on wooded wetlands.

[Movie: No jury trial, but unanimous approval (1110M)]
Brooks County Commission hearing NextEra won’t agree to any jury trial, yet unanimously approving NextEra’s Special Exception, 2019-08-05

Here is the press release from their attorney, Jonathan Perry Waters of Macon, Georgia (see also PDF).

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 29, 2019

LANDOWNERS CHALLENGE SOLAR EXCEPTION

Quitman, Georgia— August 29, 2019 — On Monday of this week, Brooks County Superior Court Judge Richard Cowart signed a Sanction for a Writ of Certiorari allowing a group of landowners in Brooks County to file a petition in the Superior Court of the County challenging the granting of a Special Exception Zoning permit by the Brooks County Board of Commissioners to Quitman II Solar, LLC to construct a 1,700 acre solar site in the an Agricultural Zoned area of the County. Quitman II Solar, LLC, is a wholly owned subsidiary of NextEra Energy, of Juno Beach, Florida.

Continue reading

Need EIS, public hearings –Okefenokee Swamp Park to USACE about titanium mine 2019-08-22

Excellent comments from Okefenokee Swamp Park, requesting at least three public hearings by the Army Corps, plus independent research, in addition to a full Environmental Impact Statement. When I received them from Dr. Clark last night, he asked me to circulate them widely; see also PDF.

[About OSP]
About OSP

Continue reading

No more promiscious issuance of water withdrawal permits to Nestle –Suwannee Riverkeeper in The Independent, U.K. 2019-08-26

“Suwannee Riverkeeper is opposed to continued promiscuous issuance of permits to withdraw water from the Floridan Aquifer, which is already overtaxed and sinking. The Suwannee River Water Management District not only should reject Nestle’s application to withdraw water from the Santa Fe River at Ginnie Springs; it should also revisit Nestle’s permit to withdraw water from the Withlacoochee River at Madison Blue Spring.”

That’s what I told a reporter yesterday, and SRWMD does have statutory authority to revoke permits in addition to refusing new ones. You can tell SRWMD these things.

[BLUE SPRING, MADISON COUNTY, FL]
Photo: John S. Quarterman for WWALS. Note “BLUE SPRING, MADISON, COUNTY FL” and “NESTLE WATERS NORTH AMERICA INC., STAMFORD, CT 06902”. Why should a Swiss company with North American headquarters in Connecticut get to take our water for free and pollute our waterways with its plastic bottles?

Lily Puckett, The Independent, 26 August 2019, Nestle attempts to to pump 1.1m gallons of water per day from fragile US spring: The water system has been officially “in recovery” for years, Continue reading