Tag Archives: Natural Gas 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

How Florida can pick up slack from FERC shirking its LNG oversight duties –Cecile Scofield in TCPalm 2020-01-15

Longtime WWALS member Cecile Scofield in TCPalm, January 15, 2020, Liquified natural gas needs regulation in Florida,

You and a friend decide to go into business together. You draft your business plan and delineate each person’s responsibilities for the operation. But what happens if one of you decides to shirk your assigned duties? Your business venture will be doomed to failure.

[WWALS LNG Export Map]
WWALS LNG Export Map
PDF

This is exactly what has happened with regulating a new breed of inland Liquefied Natural Gas export facilities in Florida. A Memorandum of Understanding between the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) outlines each agency’s role in exercising regulatory authority over the siting, design, construction, operation, maintenance, and expansion of LNG facilities. See https://tinyurl.com/tdhxazn.

LNG facilities are regulated, in part, by Continue reading

A Bill of Rights for Nature

Update 2020-02-20: Santa Fe Bill of Rights for Nature (SAFEBOR) petition.

Update 2020-02-19: Waterkeepers Florida for home rule, against state pre-emption of environmental ordinances 2020-02-14.

Update 2020-02-09: Videos: John Moran, Doug Shields, Chuck O’Neal @ FL RoNCon 2020-02-08.

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

Appeal against pipeline eminent domain to U.S. Supreme Court 2019-03-13

Ain’t that the truth: “The upshot of this is that the pipeline companies get everything they want, and the property owners get nothing.”

[Transco]
Transco

A lasting solution would be to remove private eminent domain from the Natural Gas Act (NGA), as proposed by the Georgia House of Representatives in 2017. Meanwhile, this Writ attempts at least to limit the damage.

[Question]
Question

This Pennsylvania case is about Transcontinental Pipeline Company (Transco), which is also behind the Hillabee Expansion Project in Alabama, the source of Sabal Trail’s fracked methane in the Continue reading

Jury awards 33 times what Sabal Trail offered to Levy Co., FL landowner 2018-11-09

If this isn’t what Sabal Trail was scared of back in September when they settled three jury trials in Valdosta, Georgia, it should have been.

Sabal Trail path digitized by WWALS, Maps

Andrew Caplan, Gainesville Sun, 12 November 2018, Sabal Trail must pay Levy landowners $1.3M

A 12-member jury in Gainesville awarded Levy County residents Lee Thomas and his son, Ryan, more than $1.3 million for land that Sabal Trail built its pipeline on.

Sabal Trail Transmission was back in federal court in Friday to defend its controversial $3 billion project and the offers it made to a pair of landowners for uprooting and burying a natural gas pipeline on their property.

That didn’t go over so well.

Continue reading

Spectra responds in pipeline certificate rulemaking 2018-08-24

As we’ve seen so often in the Sabal Trail docket, Spectra seems to be acting in place of FERC, responding yesterday to thousands of comments on FERC’s certificate rulemaking.

Spectra’s bottom line: a pipeline company’s bottom line matters more than the Fifth Amendment due process, or water, air, or safety. See page 25:

Contrary to some commenters’ arguments, the Commission’s public interest determinations are not rendered insufficient under the Fifth Amendment public use requirement because the Commission considers precedent agreements among applicants and affiliates to be evidence of public benefits.

Spectra repeatedly argues that FERC does not have authority to consider hardly anything other than whether the pipeline company has customers, yet FERC has authority to give eminent domain to private corporations and to let them gouge through our lands and under our rivers without local agreement or payment first.

Page 9: Tolling Orders, Pages

In this election year, you can ask every candidate for statehouse or Congress whether they support Continue reading

Motion to reject FERC DSEIS, to take Sabal Trail out of service, and to revoke its permit: WWALS to FERC 2017-12-29

reopen the whole basis of the FERC 2016 Order, Filing FERC, if it follows its own rules, should reject the DSEIS, stop Sabal Trail, and revoke its permit, says a motion filed today with FERC by Suwannee Riverkeeper.

Followup blog posts will feature major sections and arguments from these 20 pages with their 93 footnotes. The basic arguments are summarized on the first page:

WWALS argues that no SEIS can be complete without accounting for GHG from Liquid Natural Gas (“LNG”) exports, nor without comparing natural gas to solar power, according to precedents already set by FPL, FERC, and others, which also reopen the whole basis of the FERC 2016 Order.

FERC may not care, but the D.C. Circuit Court may, or candidates for office, or the voting public.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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


Filed with FERC today as Continue reading

WWALS and 182 Organizations from 35 States Call for Congressional Review of FERC 2016-09-21

For Immediate Release

WWALS and 182 Organizations from 35 States Call for Congressional Review of FERC

PDF

Hundreds of Nonprofit Organizations Join to Demand Reform of Rogue Agency

Washington, DC, September 21, 2016 — More than 180 organizations representing communities across America called on leaders in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and House Energy and Commerce Committee to hold congressional hearings into the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) extensive history of bias and abuse. The groups are also requesting reform of the Natural Gas Act, which the groups say, gives too much power to FERC and too little to state and local officials.

“The time has now come for Congress to investigate how FERC is using its authority and to recognize that major changes are in fact necessary in order to protect people, including future generations, from the ramifications of FERC’s misuse of its power and implementation of the Natural Gas Act,” says Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper, leader of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and a primary organizer of the effort.

Protesting the pipeline at the Suwannee River crossing...so nice to see lots of kids! “A prime example of FERC’s dereliction of duty to the public benefit is the Sabal Trail fracked methane pipeline Spectra Energy is drilling through Alabama, Georgia, and Florida and under our Withlacoochee River in Georgia and our Suwannee River in Florida,” says John S. Quarterman, president of WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. (WWALS), the Waterkeeper® Affiliate for the upper Suwannee River. He added, “FERC failed in its due diligence by opaque selection of environmental contractors, by issuing its permit before permits from two states and the Army Corps, by ignoring copious new geological and other evidence, and by giving Sabal Trail construction go-ahead while a lawsuit is still pending by Flint Riverkeeper, Sierra Club, Gulf Restoration Network, and others, including construction through properties whose landowners have not even had eminent domain compensation hearings. Most egregiously, despite FPL, the source of the $3 billion for this boondoggle, admitting in its 2016 Ten Year Plan that Florida needs no new electricity until 2024 at the earliest, FERC refuses to even reconsider the alleged “need” for this unnecessary, destructive, and hazardous pipeline. Corporate profits for Spectra Energy from Houston, Texas and Enbridge from Calgary, Alberta are no justification for taking local land and risking our water, air, taxes, and safety.”

The letter to Continue reading