FERC sides with Sabal Trail in DEIS: Surprise!

Anybody who thought FERC would do a real Draft Environmental Impact Statement is disappointed. But they shouldn’t be surprised: FERC, 100% funded by the industries they “regulate”, is a rubberstamp machine. But that’s no reason to give up. It’s reason to stand up, and take advantage of many more opportunities to stop the unnecessary, destructive, and hazardous Sabal Trail pipeline and get on with renewable solar and wind power.

Carlton Fletcher, Albany Herald, 13 September 2015, FERC Sabal Trail ruling comes amidst protest: Group holds fasting vigil outside federal agency’s offices,

ALBANY — Even as a group started a fast in front of the agency’s Washington, D.C., offices and questions arose in Florida over the safety record of Spectra Energy, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission made it clear this week that it had no intention of standing in the way of construction of the proposed Sabal Trail natural gas pipeline in Alabama, Georgia and Florida.

Local opponents of the 515.5-mile, estimated $3.5 billion pipeline vowed to continue their fight to stop construction of the project after FERC released its voluminous draft environmental impact statement Tuesday, but even they acknowledged that the ruling was a devastating blow to their efforts.

“There are other federal agencies that will look at our community’s concerns about this project before it moves forward, but, yes, at first glance it appears that Sabal Trail got pretty much everything they wanted,” Dougherty County landowner Dinorah Hall, who has become the local face of the anti-pipeline movement, said after the FERC statement was released.

Well, it shouldn’t be any surprise. A year and a half ago at the FERC Scoping Meeting in Moultrie I asked FERC’s John Peconom straight out:

John Peconom, FERC: What would it take for FERC to deny a permit this pipeline?

Answer: next question.

There’s a reason Beyond Extreme Energy people are camped in front of FERC’s offices in DC fasting night and day until the Pope arrives. They’ve all been through the FERC “process” and gotten rubberstamped.

John Trallo, Sane Energy Project, 7 July 2014, FERC and the Regulatory Trap,

Myself, and other concerned citizens launched a massive campaign to stop the Marc-1. We submitted 22,093 signatures opposing the project, in addition to a bi-partisan coalition of 35 Pennsylvania State Representatives and two State Senators. Even the EPA stepped in and declared the project unnecessary, since the natural gas in the region was already being moved to market via the Tennessee and the Transco.

After we effectively stalled the project for 18 months by demanding justification for the project, environmental impact statements, and concerns about eminent domain abuse, etc., the three Sullivan County, PA Commissioners, along with a few U.S. congressmen with no connection to Pennsylvania, asked FERC to “overlook the localized concerns,” and expeditiously approve the project.

FERC issued a pre-vetted statement thanking everyone for being involved and expressing their heartfelt thoughts and concerns, assured all property owners that eminent domain would “only be used as a last resort”— and only if all negotiations between CNYOG and the landowners failed — and approved the project. All of which was done “class one,” which means minimum safety standards, and no local, state, or federal oversight.

The very next day, eminent domain was filed against 89 of the private landowners, most of which were never previously notified of a proposed Right-of-Way on their property, or had the chance to negotiate terms. All 89 property owners went to court, and all 89 lost.

FERC has only ever denied two pipeline permits, according to FERC’s own staff. The good news is: one of those was a Spectra permit!

So even Spectra can lose at FERC.

But the chances are small, so there’s a reason this is happening:

Meanwhile, in Florida an environmental group has filed a petition with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to stop development of the pipeline over concerns about the safety record of Spectra Energy, the Houston-based company that will build the pipeline. The group points to a May pipeline rupture under the Arkansas River that forced two miles of the river to be shut down after an estimated 3.9 million cubic feet of natural gas was released.

Presumably WFTV Orlando 1 September 2015 and certainly the environmental group is WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc., which has a judge assigned and is negotiating venue and dates for a hearing.

The reason is that despite Sabal Trail’s insinuations that only FERC decides, it was FERC that required Sabal Trail to get these state permits. And until that Florida case is resolved, there is no Florida permit.

More in a following post about more opportunities to oppose Sabal Trail at local, state, and national levels.


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