Rick Scott owned or owned stock in both existing and the proposed new fracked methane pipelines to Florida, according to a reporter, which could explain why when FPL said “frog” Scott’s appointees jumped to approve the Sabal Trail Pipeline. This doesn’t seem right to SpectraBusters president Beth Gordon. Does it seem right to you?
Dan Christensen wrote for the Miami Herald 21 July 2014, Gov. Scott had stake in pipeline firm whose $3 billion venture he and his appointees backed,
“The proposed project will need state regulatory and governmental agencies to understand and support this project,” said the proposal submitted by FPL vice president Sam Forrest.
Gov. Scott understood. In May and June 2013, he signed into law two bills designed to speed up permitting for what came to be known as the Sabal Trail Transmission — a controversial, 474-mile natural gas pipeline that’s to run from Alabama and Georgia to a hub in Central Florida, south of Orlando.
Five months later, the Florida Public Service Commission, whose five members were appointed by Gov. Scott, unanimously approved construction of Sabal Trail as the state’s third major natural gas pipeline. More approvals are needed from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which the governor oversees.
What wasn’t publicly known in 2013, however, was that the governor owned a stake in Spectra Energy, the Houston company chosen by Florida Power & Light that July to build and operate the $3 billion pipeline. Sabal Trail Transmission LLC is a joint venture of Spectra Energy and FPL’s parent, NextEra Energy.
BrowardBulldog.org’s review of financial records made public last month by Gov. Scott show that as of Dec. 31 his portfolio included several million dollars invested in the securities of more than two-dozen entities that produce and/or transport natural gas — including some, like Spectra, with substantial Florida operations.
His stake in Spectra Energy was reported as being worth $53,000 that day.
Florida’s ethics laws generally prohibit public officials like the governor from owning stock in businesses subject to their regulation, or that do business with state agencies. A similar prohibition exists on owning shares in companies that would “create a continuing or frequently recurring conflict” between an official’s private interests and the “full and faithful discharge” of his public duties.
Scott’s spokes of course say the Spectra stock was in a blind trust. However:
But as BrowardBulldog.org reported in March, the governor’s blind trust was ineffective in keeping the governor’s assets secret. And Alan Bazaar, a trusted former employee of the governor’s private investment firm Richard L. Scott Investments, managed the blind trust.
“The Legislature makes it easy for officials to get away with conflicts of interest through loopholes in the ethics code,” said Dan Krassner, executive director of Integrity Florida, the nonpartisan research institute and government watchdog group. “Corruption has been institutionalized in Florida with flawed policies like blind trusts and political appointees issuing advisory opinions on what’s ethical.”
The governor, the Senate president and the House speaker appoint the members of Florida’s Commission on Ethics.
Now isn’t that convenient! And the reporter discloses that Scott also owns $55,000 of DCP Midstream Parterns, which is 50% owned by Spectra Energy. Oh, and $311,000 in Energy Transfer, which through subsidiaries owns Florida Gas Transmission (FGT), which is one of Florida’s two existing methane pipelines. And $104,000 of Williams Company, and $17,000 of Williams MLP Access Midstream Partners. Wait, back up. Williams owns Transco, of the Hillabee Expansion Project, the first in the triple Transco -> Sabal Trail -> FSC fracked methane pipeline to the see where there are three already-approved LNG export companies.
And Williams and Spectra together own Gulfstream Pipeline, the other existing fracked methane pipeline to Florida. That’s the one that said back in 2008 another pipeline wanted to connect to it:
“Gulfstream opposes and protests the proposal to allow its narrow right-of-way in the Port Manatee area to be used for the unneeded construction and operation of the proposed Port Dolphin pipeline. And Gulfstream will not agree to the point of interconnection selected by Port Dolphin.”
Perhaps it’s coincidence that Williams and Spectra decided a new pipeline was needed once Florida’s governor owned stock in them.
Susan Glickman, Florida Director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, didn’t like it. Beth Gordon summed it up:
“OUTRAGED AND DISHEARTENED”
Beth Gordon is a lawyer and former South Florida resident who now lives with her family on a 32-acre horse farm in Levy County, where Spectra wants to route Sabal Trail. She helped found Spectrabusters, a citizens’ group that’s fighting Sabal Trail.
“I’m outraged and disheartened by this news. I feel blindsided,” said Gordon, who like Scott is a Republican. “The governor’s interest is in getting these companies the permits they need and he’s not interested in the environment.”
The reporter even got to the main point about this boondoggle Sabal Trail pipeline:
In April, the Environmental Protection Agency sent a 17-page letter to FERC that questioned the need for Sabal Trail and suggested alternatives, like improved energy conservation measures, that would allow FPL to otherwise meet the power needs of its customers.
“U.S. electricity sales appear to have peaked in 2007,” the letter says.
This EPA letter, which also edged into LNG export questions.
It’s good to see a reporter at a major paper get it that this pipeline isn’t needed. His revelations about a sitting governor during an election could even affect who ends up running Florida. Then maybe Florida can convince FPL to get on with efficiency and solar power.
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