State and local permitting for Sabal Trail pipeline

The Florida Public Service Commission has a special say in the Southeast Market Pipelines Project because the Florida Southeast Connection (FSC) leg of this pipeline is completely inside Florida and completely owned by FPL, a Florida regulated electric utility. And Florida has a say because the entire excuse for the three-part Transco -> Sabal Trail -> FSC project is that supposedly Florida needs the power (it doesn’t, but that’s the excuse). FPL is getting so desperate for public acceptance of this boondoggle they pressed their own CEO, Eric Silagy, into attempting to rebut Our Santa Fe River’s latest entry in the op-ed debate.

Sabal Trail and FERC would like everyone to believe state regulators have no say, but that’s just not true. It’s not even clear GA PSC has no say, considering that in Oregon its equivalent got deputized by PHMSA to investigate a three-month Williams Company methane leak. At the very least GA PSC could file as an intervenor with FERC, saying it doesn’t want to get stuck with cleaning up after Spectra. The GA Department of Transportation does have to be asked for a certificate of public convenience, and it is very clear that other AL,GA,FL state agencies such as GA Environmental Protection Division ( air permit application from Sabal Trail) and FL Department of Environmental Protection (multiple water permit applications related to the Withlacoochee, Suwannee, and Santa Fe Rivers) do have a say. This is why FERC requires the pipeline companies to contact a long list of federal, state, and local agencies.

If they’re want to withdraw water from the Suwannee River Basin, they probably also need a permit from the Suwannee River Water Management District, and Jefferson County, Florida fought one of those off, defeating mighty Nestlé, market cap $338 billion, more than three times the combined $94 billion market caps of Spectra ($7.7B), Williams ($4.70B), and NextEra ($42.60B). Jefferson County followed up with an ordinance to prevent it happening again, illustraing that local governments can regulate land-use through local zoning ordinances, as already demonstrated in Penssylvania for pipelines and in New York for fracking.

In Massachusetts, Kinder Morgan’s stealth pipeline expansion has hit a snag because Governor Patrick Deval is at least delaying the necessary state permits. Elections are on right now, and both Georgia and Florida could soon have governors who, unlike Florida’s Rick Scott, didn’t own Spectra stock before their FL PSC appointees approved the FSC and Sabal Trail pipelines.

Any of Florida, Georgia, or Alabama could stop this pipeline. Enough (maybe one) county ordinance could stop it. Enough affected landowners saying Come and Take It and forcing the pipeline companies to up their offers and actually go through the expensive (to the pipeline companies) eminent domain process could stop this pipeline.

There are things that we can do. The Williams-Spectra-FPL snake of a pipeline is still crawling, but it’s got to cross the road in three states. Could end up road kill.


PS: Added a picture of an invasive Burmese python such as is already infesting Florida and trying to get into Georgia.

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