Tag Archives: sinkhole

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

Winner: Within these WWALS Contest #1 2020-04-11

First, remember the fourth Within These WWALS contest is still in progress, and you can answer here by midnight May 2, 2020:
https://forms.gle/SSPeLzniUxgQbqFL9

Meanwhile, the winner of the first contest, which ended April 11, 2020, is….

Deanna Mericle, of Hamilton County, Florida!

WWALS charter board member emeritus Bret Wagenhorst sent her a packet of WWALS photo notecards from that watershed.

Alapaha River and Banks Lake notecards

Each of the pictures on the cover shown above appears on a separate notecard, each with an envelope.

The answers to Within These WWALS #1 are: Continue reading

On Earth Day, FERC approved Sabal Trail Albany, GA, and Dunnellon, FL, compressor stations 2020-04-22

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

FERC on Earth Day rubberstamped Sabal Trail pipeline compressor stations in Georgia virus hotspot and Florida location that already leaked

Hahira, Georgia, April 23, 2020 — “What better way to say they don’t care, than to do this on Earth Day?” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman, “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) broke out its rubberstamp during a virus pandemic, ignoring its own process, as well as all the comments and our motion against, to approve turning on two compressor stations, including one in Albany, Georgia, which is the Georgia city worst-affected by the virus, and another at a site near Dunnellon, Florida, which already leaked multiple times even before construction started.”

[Project Location Map]
Project Location Map

Methane from fracking is not more important to push through a Sabal Trail pipeline than the health of local people or even Sabal Trail’s own workers.

Compressor Station from FL 200
Photo: WCJB, of Sabal Trail Dunnellon Compressor Station after leak, 2017-08-11.

Quarterman added, “With the price of oil negative and “natural” gas down 40%, it’s time to ask investors if they want to go down with the fossil fuel ship of fools and time to ask politicians if they want this to be their legacy.”

Only four weeks before the FERC approval letter, FERC opened a comment period on a request by Sabal Trail for six more months to finish these same facilities, in which Sabal Trail cited the virus pandemic as a reason. Contradicting its own request, and during that two-week period, Sabal Trail asked FERC to go ahead and approve turning on both compressor stations, which must involve Sabal Trail workers working during pandemic conditions.

FERC did not even mention that WWALS Watershed Coalition (WWALS) had moved to deny, nor any of the numerous other comments against turning on the compressor stations.

For that comment period, FERC required organizations to file again to be Intervenors, and only organizations that were already Intervenors on the process of the underlying FERC docket could do that. The only one to do that was Suwannee Riverkeeper for WWALS (see PDF). WWALS also filed a motion to halt Sabal Trail’s Phase II (which is mostly these two compressor stations), to deny Sabal Trail’s request to turn the compressor stations on, and to invoke penalties for already being two years late (see PDF). WWALS reasons to deny included repeated previous leaks at the Dunnellon Compressor Station of hazardous Mercaptan odorant, as well as leaks of methane at the Hildreth Compressor Station in Suwannee County, Florida, plus sinkholes at the Flint River near the Albany Compressor Station, the virus pandemic, and Sabal Trail gas going to private profit through Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) export, making a mockery of local landowners having to give up easements through federal eminent domain supposedly for the public good of the United States.

WWALS also noted that the only “justification” for Sabal Trail was alleged “market need,” and there was none any more, since oil and gas prices had dropped through the floor. Since then, oil prices actually went negative for the first time in history, and natural gas prices are down more than 40% from only six months ago.

FERC did not address the concerns raised by Our Santa Fe River (OSFR) about leaks, breach of commitment, and endangering commmunities Continue reading

Lowndes County admits causing sinkhole; is fixing it 2019-06-24

On the Lowndes County Commission agenda for discussion this morning and voting tomorrow evening, is a rare case where the county admits to having caused a sinkhole, and is fixing the cause: KOA Lift Station Emergency Repair

The 8″ line between the manhole and lift station wet well has collapsed. This has created a sink hole effect with sand filling the wet well. A new manhole will be set and 40′ of 8″ pipe will be jack and bored to connect the new manhole to the wet well. RPI, Inc. has provided a quote for $49,400.00 to provide the materials and perform the work.

Lowndes County Utilities Director Steve Stalvey
Lowndes County Utilities Director Steve Stalvey, 8 May 2018.

The other item is not obvious: Continue reading

EPA considering abandoning Floridan Aquifer?

The new water rule EPA plans to propose may be much more about all our drinking water underground in Florida and south Georgia than about anybody’s private pond.

Stacey H. Mitchell, David H. Quigley and Bryan Williamson, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, 11 December 2018, United States: Dipping Its Toe In The Groundwater? Supreme Court Eyes Expedited Review For Clean Water Act Case,

Specifically, the Court aims to address a circuit split among the 4th, 5th and 9th Circuits in determining whether only direct discharges to “navigable waters” (rivers, lakes and other surface waters, for example) are covered or whether groundwater that is “hydrologically connected to surface water” is subject to Clean Water Act (CWA) pollution discharge requirements.2 Groundwater—that is, water held beneath the soil or in between rock structures—does not fall under CWA jurisdiction. Nevertheless, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for many years, maintained that pollutants that flow with a direct and immediate hydrologic connection through groundwater into surface waters are properly regulated under the CWA.3 Environmentalists agree with EPA’s long-standing position, while many in industry say that the agency is reaching beyond its scope.

Surface water interchanges with groundwater all the time here in the southeast coastal plain, where we all drink with straws from the groundwater.


Figure from same USGS study as below.

This SCOTUS case appears to be related to the forthcoming EPA rule change proposal that has been all over the news lately. More from the same article: Continue reading

PBS airs part of Alan Toth’s Phosphate Mining Movie 2018-10-31

Some national news about the proposed phosphate mine in Union and Bradford Counties.

If the phosphate would not be processed in Union or Bradford Counties, as Jack Hazen says, the closest place with processing capability is the Nutrien (PCS) phosphate mine in Hamilton County, on the Suwannee River.

Judy Woodruff, 31 October 2018, PBS News Hour, Battle over phosphate mining roils small Florida town,

No-phosphate-mining, Union County

Laura Newberry:

Union County commissioners recently passed a one-year moratorium on mining permits, but Bradford County commissioners are still considering the mine.

Carol Mosley:

Continue reading

Benefits must outweigh harms –WWALS to FERC Re: Pipeline Certification NOI 2018-07-25

Here’s the WWALS response to FERC’s Notice of Inquiry (NOI) about “Certification of New Interstate Natural Gas Facilities”. A few excerpts:

FERC should approve no more pipelines without comparing not just coal plants to natural gas plants, but also comparing sun and wind power. If that means no more pipelines, so be it….

In one of the most egregious cases, Sabal Trail commenced construction on the land of the Bell Brothers in Mitchell County, Georgia, and when they countersued, Continue reading

Fossil fuels are a far bigger threat than the Russians

Leaks of hazardous materials, explosions, land takings, sinkholes, frac-outs: these are far bigger threats than Texas Rep. Lamar Smith’s Committee report “that states Russian agents were attempting to disrupt U.S. energy markets and using social media to purportedly stir up protests against pipelines such as Sabal Trail,” as a reporter asked me about recently. Smith’s report doesn’t mention that solar and wind power are growing far faster than his favorite, fracked methane gas.

Energy source growth by sector
Business Council for Sustainable Energy by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, February 2018, 2018 Sustainable Energy in America.

Elsewhere I already looked behind Lamar Smith’s fossil fuel smoke and mirrors, and found I post more on social media than the tiny Russian numbers that horrify him.

His actual examples are seriously rolling-on-the-floor laughable, such as this: Continue reading

Dead River Sink and Iche Nippy Dip Day 2018-01-06

Reminder: the first leg of the Alapaha Quest has been rescheduled for Saturday, January 27, 2018, so see you at Sheboggy Landing then, not tomorrow.

However, if you want to get out in the cold this Saturday, January 6, 2018, other groups have two outings scheduled in the Suwannee River Basin: Alapaha Dead River Hike and Iche Nippy Dip Day.

Iche Nippy Dip Day

Ichetucknee Springs State Park says: Continue reading

A Resolution Against Phosphate Mines in Florida –Florida Waterkeepers 2017-12-18

Update 2018-12-30: The new organization WATERKEEPERS Florida, as one of its first acts, on December 19, 2018, signed the Resolution Against Phosphate Mines in Florida, thus committing all thirteen of its member organizations.

Update 2018-11-13: Miami Waterkeeper has signed, bringing it to a round dozen Florida Waterkeepers.

Signers, Resolution

Update 2018-08-18: Calusa Waterkeeper has also signed, bringing it to 11 of the 14 Waterkeepers in Florida. (See also PDF.)

Update 2018-08-01: Five additional signers: Suncoast Waterkeeper, Tampa Bay Waterkeeper, Indian Riverkeeper, St. Marys Riverkeeper, and Collier County Waterkeeper. Seven of us delivered this resolution in person to FDEP Secretary Noah Valenstein.

Delivered via email as PDF to the Union BOCC before their phosphate mine workshop of Monday, December 18, 2017.


A Resolution
Against Phosphate Mines in Florida

WHEREAS, Waterkeeper Alliance Members are obligated and dedicated to protect the water resources, citizens’ interests, and related benefits in their jurisdictions; and

WHEREAS, Resolution WHEREAS, phosphate mines have been shown to threaten and cause actual harm to these resources, interest, and related benefits; and

WHEREAS, there are several phosphate mine projects in various stages of permitting in local, state, and federal agencies including county and city governments, Water Management Districts (WMDs), Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE); and

WHEREAS, there seems to be no public list of current phosphate mines and related facitlities, which include at least

Continue reading