Tag Archives: National Environmental Policy Act

The illusion of pipeline invincibility is shattered –WWALS Brief to FERC in Sabal Trail Rehearing

Let’s cut to the chase in the letter we filed with FERC yesterday:

11. Historic new circumstances add up

The sun never set on the British Empire. Until it did.

No one circumstance ended that Empire, but it is easy to point at major events that accelerated its demise, such as the independence of India and the Suez Incident. Its fall started after the illusion of its invincibility was shattered by Gandhi’s campaign of civil disobedience and other events such as World War II.

The illusion of invincibility of the inland colonial empire of pipelines has been shattered by recent court orders about the ACP, DAPL, and others, and especially by the shut down of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the shuttering of the Constitution Pipeline and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. All of those pipelines were expected to be built, and DAPL actually was built before being ordered to shut down and empty. Now the world knows that pipelines are not inevitable.

All these pipeline projects, like Sabal Trail, were opposed by nonviolent protests and political and legal actions. All those methods of opposition, combined with the sea-change in progress to renewable energy, eventually added up to a new and significantly different world than that in which Sabal Trail was permitted or re-permitted.

The shut down of DAPL and the abandonment of ACP as well as the court rejection of tolling orders make it a new world even since FERC’s June 19, 2020, Order granting a rehearing on Sierra Club’s motion.

FERC should initiate a new [Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement] EIS that should take into account Sabal Trail’s own track record of leaks and sinkholes, as well as leaks and accidents from [Liquid Natural Gas] LNG export and LNG transport in rail cars, the speeding demise of fossil fuels as evidenced by record low LNG export prices and bankruptcies of frackers, the court rejections of DAPL, ACP, and tolling orders and how much of Sabal Trail could never have been built through environmental justice communities without tolling orders, the coronavirus pandemic, and the rapid rise of renewable solar, wind, and battery power as evidenced by FPL and Sabal Trail partners Duke and NextEra, as well as by FERC’s own numbers. All of those new and significant circumstances make pipelines such as Sabal Trail toxic stranded assets, dangerous to the bank accounts of their investors, as well as to the environment, justice, and human health.

Conclusion

For the reasons stated above, WWALS asks FERC to grant Sierra Club’s motion for stay of the Commission’s letter order of April 22, 2020, to halt Sabal Trail Phase II, and to commence a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) taking into account all of the above new and significant circumstances.

[Third-party inspection, recission, stay, SEIS]
Third-party inspection, recission, stay, SEIS

For those who are not familiar with tolling orders, they are basically how, after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) gives federal eminent domain to a private pipeline company, FERC lets that pipeline company take land before any payment to the landowner or even any agreement is reached. Without tolling orders, it’s not clear the FERC will ever get another pipeline built.

Here’s a longer explanation. Continue reading

Last day to comment to the Corps against strip mine near Okefenokee Swamp 2020-05-28

Today is the last public comment day to ask the Corps to stop a strip mine so close to the Okefenokee Swamp you can see both from a few hundred feet up.

[Distant 2019-11-23]
Drone aerials of titanium mine site near Okefenokee Swamp 2019-11-23.

As the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told Georgia Sen. Purdue last November,

“The initial project location is the farthest that mining activity would be from the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) boundary and the Okefenokee Swamp. Any additional mining that occurs within the 12,000-acre permit area would be closer to the refuge. The northwest boundary of the permit area is within a half mile from the refuge boundary and 400 feet from the edge of the Okefenokee Swamp.”

FWS also spelled out the bottom line: “It is the responsibility of the permit applicant to demonstrate what the extent of impacts of the project will be to surrounding natural resources.”

And the applicant still has not done that, not even in its second application.

A few miners profiting by selling titanium dioxide for paint is nowhere near sufficient reason to risk the unique treasure that is the Okefenokee Swamp, which is also the headwaters of both the Suwannee and St. Marys Rivers.

Please comment to the Corps

Today you can still ask the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to stop this strip mine:
To: CESAS-SpecialProjects@usace.army.mil
Re: Applicant: Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, Application Number: SAS-2018-00554

Be sure to ask the Corps to deny the permit, or at least to require an Environmental Impact Statement.

Or use the convenient comment form in this Action Alert by Waterkeeper Alliance:
https://waterkeeper.org/news/take-action-protect-okefenokee-swamp-from-a-titanium-mine/

Or this convenient comment form by Georgia River Network:
https://www.congressweb.com/GEAN/225

For far more information about this bad strip-mining proposal, see:
http://wwals.net/issues/titanium-mining/

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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

Any additional mining would be closer to the refuge. –FWS to Sen. Perdue 2019-11-21

“The initial project location is the farthest that mining activity would be from the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) boundary and the Okefenokee Swamp. Any additional mining that occurs within the 12,000-acre permit area would be closer to the refuge. The northwest boundary of the permit area is within a half mile from the refuge boundary and 400 feet from the edge of the Okefenokee Swamp,” wrote the Fish and Wildlife Service to Senator David Purdue.

You can still comment to the Army Corps demanding an Environmental Impact Statement.

Minnie Lake, Shirley Kokidko, Gretchen Quarterman, 11:42:54,, Minnie Lake
Photo: John S. Quarterman, Okefenokee Swamp, 2017-12-10

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) wrote that in response to an inquiry by Senator David Perdue of Georgia. Sen. Perdue also asked if FWS actually had jurisdiction over the proposed mining area, and FWS replied saying that it did have several kinds of oversight.

But FWS spelled out the bottom line: “It is the responsibility of the permit applicant to demonstrate what the extent of impacts of the project will be to surrounding natural resources.”

And the applicant still has not done that, not even in its second application.

No longer discussing the northern reaches of its landholdings much doesn’t mean Continue reading

Reject or EIS: Twin Pines Minerals mine near Okefenokee –U.S. Rep. Al Lawson 2020-02-13

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson Jr, Twitter, 2PM, 14 February 2020, @RepAlLawsonJr,

I sent a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers to express my concerns about Twin Pines Minerals, LLC’s plan to mine for titanium near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. These actions could have detrimental effects on the area’s biodiversity and natural resources.

[U.S. Rep. Al Lawson to USACE]
U.S. Rep. Al Lawson to USACE


AL LAWSON
5TH DISTRICT, FLORIDA
ASSISTANT MAJORITY WHIP
COMMITTEE ON
FINANCIAL SERVICES
COMMITTEE ON
AGRICULTURE

Congress of the United States
 
House of Representatives
 
Washington, DC 20515-0905

February 13, 2020

Col. Daniel Hibner
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Savannah District
100 W. Oglethorpe Avenue
Savannah, Georgia 31401

Dear Hearing Officer:

I am writing to express my concerns about Twin Pines Minerals, LLC’s application for a clean water (CWA) permit to mine for titanium near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Osceola National Forest, and Osceola Wildlife Management Area. I urge the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to carefully consider the significant environmental, social, and economic costs that could occur if the permit is granted. It is crucial that the Corps require an environmental impact statement under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Furthermore, the Corps should reject the permit application if it appears the mine will harm the environment.

Trail Ridge and Okefenokee NWR

If approved, the project would destroy portions of Trail Ridge, which acts as Continue reading

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, Continue reading

EPA perfunctory Lack of Objections to FERC Sabal Trail DSEIS 2017-11-20

EPA doesn’t even remember when it sent its own greenhouse gas (GHG) comments to FERC, forgets that it already told FERC nevermind, and now says, despite copious evidence filed by Senators, professors, Riverkeepers, and environmental organizations from multiple states as far away as Colorado, that FERC’s incorrect and inadequate Draft Supplementary Environmental Impact Statemen (FSEIS) rates “Lack of Objections or “LO””.

EPA to FERC, Re: SMPP This latest EPA letter is dated November 20, 2017, but FERC didn’t inform intervenors about it until today, two weeks later. The EPA letter claims:

The EPA commented on the FEIS on January 25, 2016. In those comments the EPA provided several recommendations including that the FERC consider a detailed evaluation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in future analyses.

Yet FERC’s Docket CP15-17 shows no comment by EPA in January 2016. It does show this same G. Alan Farmer, Director, Resource Conservation and Restoration Division, EPA, wrote a letter to FERC filed 1 December 2015 as Accession Number 20171201-0034 (see also WWALS blog post), in which he said nothing I can see about greenhouse gases, but he did basically say “nevermind” to EPA’s extensive letter of October 26, 2015, filed as Accession Number 0151102-0219 (clean text on the WWALS website), which October letter did include: Continue reading

This is wind in our sails and could be the end of Sabal Trail –Suwannee Riverkeeper in VDT 2017-08-24

Update 2017-08-29: Fourth news roundup: From pipelines to renewable energy and efficiency –Sierra Club 2017-08-29

“This is wind in our sails and could be the end of Sabal Trail,” Quarterman said, on the front page of the newspaper of record in the largest city in the Suwannee Basin, the Valdosta Daily Times.

Heading downstream
We got sails no one can see.
Suwannee Riverkeeper Vessel on the Suwannee River protesting Sabal Trail 2017-01-14

As Frank Jackalone says (see below), FERC has been getting away with murder. And now maybe they can’t.

Thomas Lynn, Valdosta Daily Times, 23 August 2017, Court decision to impact Sabal Trail pipeline, Continue reading

Pipeliners spooked by Sierra Club Major Landmark Victory; could shut down Sabal Trail –industry press

Update 2017-08-29: Fourth news roundup: From pipelines to renewable energy and efficiency –Sierra Club 2017-08-29

Update 2017-08-24: Third news roundup: This is wind in our sails and could be the end of Sabal Trail —Suwannee Riverkeeper in VDT 2017-08-24

OilPrice.com calls it “a critical decision yesterday, that could jeopardize the future for pipeline projects across the country”; pipeline companies could be “spooked” and “…the court ruling raises the unsettling possibility that the project may be forced to shut down — after billions were spent putting it in into service.” Other stories say this ‘huge’ win could also affect the Atlantic Sunrise, Penneast, Atlantic Coast, and Rover Pipelines, among others.

Children against Sabal Trail in Juno Beach, 2016-10-14
(L to R) Lea Fox, 4, Finn Ryder Purdy, 4, and Mason Dana, 7, of Lake Worth, sit with gas pipeline protesters outside of Florida Power and Light headquarters on Universe Boulevard in Juno Beach on October 14, 2016. The Sabal Trail Pipeline began supplying FPL’s plants in June. Groups opposed the pipeline that will start in Alabama and bring fracked gas through several counties in Florida’s springs and wetlands. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

Sad for FPL, Duke, Spectra, and all the other pipeline-building purveyors of fracked methane, maybe, but glad for all the landowners whose land was taken, local citizens who don’t want a 500+-mile IED next to their homes, schools, and waterways, and all people who want clean sun and wind energy, not more polluting fossil fuels.

It’s good the industry press agrees with what I told the VDT: “This is wind in our sails and could be the end of Sabal Trail.”

Here’s a news roundup, in addition to Continue reading

Soon down to the wire to oppose Sabal Trail invasion

The fracking that drives new pipelines was a crime until ten years ago, and it should be again: injecting poisons into the ground under our water supply was always a bad idea.

Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson and Jim Tatum, Suwannee Democrat, 14 September 2015, The FERC flexes its muscles on Sabal Trail,

The time frame is coming down to the wire as to Sabal Trail and its invasion of our riverbeds and springs systems. They have met with nothing but negative comments throughout Georgia and Florida. People have turned out in droves to express their dissent. In spite of this, they move onward with their plan to install a 36” pipeline under the Suwannee and Santa Fe Rivers, and through the center of this fragile spring system. Our springs heartland is a regional identity unlike any in the world, but vulnerable to developers and oil and gas companies.

Many environmental groups have been active in resisting. Our Santa Fe River Inc. was consistently Continue reading