Tag Archives: PHMSA

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

Proposed AGL settlement for Homerville Explosion –GA-PSC 2020-02-13

More than the $250,000 proposed last September, but still only 15% of the $2,305,000 previously proposed by GA-PSC staff: that’s the proposed settlement that Atlanta Gas Light will have to pay for the explosion that blew up a coffeeshop in August 2018 and sent three women to hospital with third-degree burns. The incident for which even PHMSA asked for clarification of how serious it was.

Most of the larger proposed fine was apparently because of lack of investigation or reporting even after the event.

Photo: Georgia State Insurance Commission Office, of aftermath of Homerville Coffeeshop explosion
Photo: State Insurance Commission Office, via WALB

Edan Schultz, WALB TV, 14 February 2020, Settlement proposed in Homerville coffee shop gas explosion,

“Last year was staff’s estimate of the top penalty, should all infractions be fined at the maximum rate. In this proposed agreement, rather than simply fine AGL at the maximum rate, the PSC and AGL came up with a solution that will help prevent an accident like this from happening again,” said PSC spokesman Tom Krause.

[Commissioner Jason Shaw (on right)]
Commissioner Jason Shaw (on right)

Commissioner Jason Shaw said AGL’s “voluntary contributions” totaling $347,000 would help prevent further such incidents. The phrase he and Krause used was 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

No LNG by Rail Rule –WWALS to PHMSA 2020-01-13

One of seventeen reasons for PHMSA to reject its own proposed rule for LNG in rail tanker cars:

  • The solution to risks of leaks, wrecks, and explosions of LNG truck tankers is not to add another source of risk in LNG rail cars, no matter what design.

[FEC Timetable North from Miami to Jacksonville]
FEC Timetable North from Miami to Jacksonville

Many thanks to Maxine Connor and Cecile Scofield for comments, corrections, and additions of this WWALS comment, sent to the Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) yesterday, which was the deadline for comment on PHMSA Notice of Proposed Rulemanking (NPRM HM-264) Hazardous Materials: Liquefied Natural Gas by Rail, PHMSA Docket No. PHMSA-2018-0025.

Cecile also had already filed her own excellent comment. Both hers and this WWALS comment draw on a fascinatingly wrong and inadequate document Cecile previously obtained via FOIA: 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

Extended: PHMSA LNG by rail car exception until 2019-08-07 on 2019-07-09

The only extension request PHMSA admitted to today, as it extended the comment period for a month, was from two members of Congress. That request notes:

If Energy Transport Solutions intends to run 100+ rail tank cars on the Florida East Coast Railway, PHMSA would be placing large swaths of people and critical infrastructure (hospitals, schools, highways, and even the President’s Mar-a-Lago resort) in jeopardy.

[3.3.2 Probability of Delayed Ignition]
3.3.2 Probability of Delayed Ignition

PHMSA also took the opportunity to add an Updated Environmental Assessment (EA), and a Quantitative Risk Analysis (QRA), which is worthless: “The scope of the QRA addresses unit train movements along one example route located in the Northeastern United States.” The QRA has no maps nor any specific identification of populations, schools, hospitals, businesses, nor even identification of which route is the example, nor which other routes might be used for shipping LNG by rail.

This all to me sounds like PHMSA always intended to extend, and to add these less than useful documents.

PHMSA also claims it added “The Energy Transport Solutions, LLC special permit application (in redacted form)” but I can’t find that online, so we still don’t even really know who the applicant is.

Extension Notice

Continue reading

PHMSA LNG by rail car exception 2019-06-06

Alachua County, New Jersey legislators, WWALS, and the U.S. House of Representatives oppose this PHMSA LNG-by-rail exception, and you can, too.

[Special Permit- Draft-0001]
Special Permit- Draft-0001

PHMSA proposes to authorize LNG in ordinary cryogenic rail cars, in an exception for a subsidiary of the company that owns Hialeah LNG and already sends LNG in containers by rail for export. “In most cases, ETS would expect that the ultimate end-users of this LNG will be foreign generators of power for residential, commercial and industrial purposes,” says the Draft Environmental Assessment. Why should we risk our homes, schools, businesses, hospitals, etc. for private export profit from New Fortress Energy’s Hialeah LNG plant near Miami? Or for a liquefaction plant in Pennsylvania or New Jersey?

PHMSA posted this extension request on June 3rd, and the deadline for comment is this Monday, July 8, 2019. WWALS signed onto an extension request by Physicians for Social Responsibility. You can still send in a copy of that request or other comments by Monday. WWALS will be filing another comment letter, as well.

The only ETS google maps finds in Doral, FL, is Continue reading

Sabal Trail shakey gas flow and Phase II 2019-06-11

Apparently some people in Albany, GA and Dunnellon, FL were surprised when Sabal Trail a week ago sent FERC “Notice of Commencement of Construction – Phase II Sabal Trail Project Facilities”, which means for the compressor stations in those two locations. But that notice was merely that “bona fide construction activities commenced on May 29, 2019.” FERC rubberstamped Phase II back in January, and Sabal Trail has been reporting on site clearing, gravelling, etc. for months.

[Aerial]
Albany Compressor Station site Aerial from 2019-01-17 STT filing

Meanwhile, Sabal Trail still can’t keep the gas flowing through its stranded asset pipelines. There never was any “need” for that gas in Florida, where Florida Power & Light (FPL)’s customers are stuck with the $4 billion construction bill. While FPL’s parent NextEra Energy never mentions Sabal Trail any more. NextEra brags instead about being a world leader in solar and wind energy.

[All (2017-06-14--2019-06-11)]
All (2017-06-14 — 2019-06-11)

When John Peconom of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) inked that rubberstamp back in January, the schedule was Continue reading

WCTV on AGL pipeline Homerville coffee shop explosion and proposed GA-PSC fines 2019-04-04

How about some accountability for regulations already in place, starting with legally-required corporate policies and procedures?

Emma Wheeler, WCTV Eyewitness News, State: Gas company failures led up to Homerville explosion,

[Empty lot]
WCTV’s Emma Wheeler reporting from the empty lot where Coffee Corner used to be in Homverville, GA

The Public Service Commission is proposing a civil penalty of $2.3 million against Atlanta Gas Light for the violations.

[GA-PSC says AGL did not shut off the gas]
GA-PSC says AGL did not shut off the gas

Suwannee Riverkeeper John Quarterman lives near the start of the pipeline. He said he was horrified by the report, and fears that this could happen anywhere along its path.

[

Continue reading

AGL report to PHMSA about Homerville, GA explosion, 2019-09-17

AGL’s report to PHMSA was so lacking that PHMSA added this comment box:

Please confirm these
injuries involved in-patient
overnight hospitalization.

Atlanta Gas Light (AGL) did mention hospitalization in its narrative on the last page, but even there did not use the terms “in-patient” or “overnight”, much less “third-degree burns” or “airlifted to the burn unit at Shands in Gainseville, Florida”.

[Please confirm these injuries involved in-patient overnight hospitalization.]
Please confirm these injuries involved in-patient overnight hospitalization.

But PHMSA’s comment is mild compared to GA-PSC staff’s more than $2 mllion recommended fine for “failure to properly investigate the damage which led to this explosion”. See previous WWALS blog post for that and other GA-PSC staff comments on this AGL Incident Report – Gas Distribution System to the U.S Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Agency (PHMSA), including:

Continue reading