Comments on the proposed Transco Pipeline Hillabee Expansion Project:
The Sierra Club is a national environmental organization promoting the protection of our natural environment and quality of life for all citizens. The Club has more than 1.5 million members and includes chapters in all states. The Alabama Chapter has approximately 3000 members.
The Alabama Chapter of the Sierra Club has joined with the Georgia and Florida Sierra Club Chapters to oppose the proposed 650 mile Sabal Trail Pipeline that would carry natural gas extracted through hydraulic fracturing from Pennsylvania and Texas through Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. Since the purpose of the Hillabee Expansion project is to supply gas to the proposed Sabal Trail pipeline, we also oppose the Hillabee Expansion project, and consider it undesirable and not needed.
Williams Partners, Inc., owners of the Transco pipeline, has a poor record of pipeline safety, and has had at least 35 reportable accidents since 2006, including the pipeline rupture and explosion on December 3, 2011, near Linden in Marengo County, Alabama. Fortunately this explosion, which devastated 65 acres of forest land, did not occur in a populated area where loss of life could have been tragic. Williams Partners should focus on upgrading the existing pipeline for improved safety rather than expanding its capacity.
The existing Transco pipeline cuts through south central Alabama from Rock Springs in Choctaw County to Alexander City in Tallapoosa County, where it would join with the Sabal Trail pipeline. Such pipelines have negative impacts on endangered species, critical wildlife habitat, invaluable wetlands, longleaf pine forests, streams, rivers, and springs, and private property rights. Additional pipelines and expansions should not be approved where they have significant negative impacts.
The Sierra Club and other environmental organizations are also opposed to the hydraulic fracturing process by which natural gas is extracted for transport in these pipelines. Although natural gas is promoted as a cheap source of energy, its true cost is not revealed. It is a fossil fuel that increases global warming, and has a high environmental cost for production. Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, is a destructive process of drilling for and fracking of shale deposits that contaminates drinking water resources in nearby communities, and requires excessive amounts of water, which has become a precious limiting resource in many areas. Fracking has also been linked to birth defects in peer-reviewed studies. Thus the true cost of producing cheap natural gas is not paid by the drilling companies, but is passed on to local communities which suffer from degraded environments, water quality, and property values. And much of the fracked natural gas is exported to other countries. For these reasons, many environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club, have called for a total ban on fracking.
Florida, which will be the sole recipient of the fracked natural gas transported through the Sabal Trail Pipeline, should expand energy efficiency measures and solar power capacity rather than increase its dependence on natural gas.
Rather than approving construction of new pipelines, FERC should be promoting increased use of renewable sources of energy, such as solar and wind power, and should also encourage improved energy efficiency measures.