Avoid the whole most vulnerable area of the Floridan Aquifer, you risk drinking water wells and environmental justice communities, you didn’t even identify Clean Water Act mitigations, neglect isn’t mitigation, and stop just tweaking Sabal Trail’s preferred route even if Sabal Trail is at risk by its contract: your process is broken, FERC! Furthermore, all agencies means you, too, FERC, about the December 2014 Revised Draft Guidance for Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Climate Change Impacts. This project is so bad EPA is setting aside its stance that natural gas is cleaner and demanding a full life cycle analysis of the Transco – Sabal Trail – FSC project.
Above I paraphrase, but I do not exaggerate the severity and extent of EPA’s criticisms of FERC’s DEIS for the proposed Sabal Trail pipeline. Read it for yourself below.
EPA specifically criticizes the proposed HDD drilling under the Withlacoochee River slightly upstream from Blue (Wade) Spring, and going anywhere through the eroded karst sinkhole-prone terrain of southern Brooks and Lowndes Counties, Georgia, as well as in Florida through the Cody Scarp with its springs, swallets, siphons, and merging sinkholes, under the Suwannee River, over Falmouth Cave, and under the Santa Fe River.
Florida Sierra Club did this:
The EPA has recently received an emergency petition1 to designate the entire Floridan Aquifer System as a sole source aquifer pursuant to §1424(e) the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act. This designation is for areas that may have no alternative drinking water source physically and economically available to supply all who depend on the aquifer for drinking water.
USGS did this, and both things should have been done long ago:
Moreover, the Florida Geological Survey has delineated a 32-county Springs Protection Area to protect the sole source of drinking water and the source of spring discharge, groundwater from the Floridan Aquifer.
Here is the text of EPA’s cover letter; its detailed attachment is in the PDF. Both were filed with FERC 26 October 2015 as Accession Number 20151026-5294, “USEPA comments on the draft EIS (Sept. 2015) for the SMP Project under CP15-554, et al.”
UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCV
ATLANTA FEDERAL CENTER
61 FORSYTH STREET
ATLANTA, GEORGIA 30303-8960
October 26, 2015
Ms. Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street, NE, Room 1A
Washington, DC 20426
SUBJECT: Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Southeast Market Pipelines Project, FERC Docket Numbers: CP14-554-000, CP15-16-OOO, and CP15-17-000;
ERP No. FRC-E03020-FL-AL-GA; CEQ No. 20150256
Dear Ms. Bose:
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has completed its review of the subject Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) pursuant to the Clean Air Act Section 309 and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Section 102(2)(C) requirements. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) proposes to license the construction of a total of 685 miles of natural gas transmission pipelines and associated facilities consisting of three separate pipeline projects (i.e., Transco’s Hillabee Expansion Project, Sabal Trail and the Florida Southeast Connection). The Sahal Trail project is approximately 515 miles of new pipeline and easements from central Alabama through southwest Georgia to Osceola County, Florida. The proposed pipeline is expected to have potentially significant environmental issues related to drinking water supplies (Floridian aquifer), sensitive geologic formations (Karst), wetlands, conservation areas, environmental justice (EJ) communities, and air quality and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The proposed Sabal Trail project alone will provide up to 1.1 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas to central and northern Florida.
The EPA has consistently expressed concerns over the preferred route through the States of Georgia and Florida to both the FERC and its applicant throughout the FERC’s NEPA scoping process. The FERC’s environmental analysis in the DEIS is primarily focused on identifying and mitigating impacts to the proposed action associated with proposed project and not avoiding and minimizing impacts to environmentally sensitive areas. The EPA has attached detailed review comments to this letter for the FERC’s consideration (See attachment).
The EPA has very significant concerns over the FERC’s process and full and objective compliance with the NEPA regulations at 40 CFR Part 1500. The FERC’s consultations with the Florida and Georgia Geological Societies, Suwannee River Water Management District, Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), and the EPA occurred afier the FERC accepted the applicant’s 2014 application and after it approved the applicant’s 2013 request to initiate the FERC’S NEPA pre-filing process. Both the application and the pre-filing request contained the applicant’s preferred route which became the FERC’s preferred route as identified in the DEIS. The FERC/applicant’s preferred route is the subject of an enforceable contract between the applicant and Florida Power and Light (FPL) that was signed on June 26, 2013. The FERC’s preferred route is also the subject of FPL’s December of 2012 request for proposals. Moreover, the applicant has indicated that the route’s alternative analyses is severely constrained by precedent agreements with its main client. From the EPA’s understanding, the applicant will potentially suffer “monetary damages” if it cannot meet its pre-committed contractual deadlines. The EPA believes that these pre-conditions may have affected the FERC’s ability to rigorously explore other potentially more environmentally-sound alternatives for portions of the proposed pipeline route.
Based upon the EPA’s calculations from different tables and sections of the DEIS, it is projected that the proposed pipelines will directly impact a total of 1,255.1 acres of jurisdictional wetlands covering three (3) US. Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) Districts (i.e. Mobile, Jacksonville and Savannah). The DEIS does not fully identify avoidance and minimization measures for the preferred alternative’s jurisdictional impacts as required by the Clean Water Act Section 404(b)(l) Guidelines. Furthermore, the FERC’s compensatory mitigation plan for unavoidable impacts to jurisdictional waters of the U.S. has not been finalized and the draft mitigation plan was not included in the DEIS.
The proposed project will also directly impact 177.8 acres of numerous conservation areas, including the Green Swamp in Florida. The EPA has substantial environmental concerns with these dedicated conservation areas being permanently converted to a pipeline easement. From the DEIS it appears that it is the FERC’s and applicant’s intent to let these conservation areas naturalize to pre-construction conditions and that this land use conversion will not be a significant long-term environmental issue. From past experiences with utility easements and required maintenance and access, the EPA does not believe that this proposition is accurate and that there will also be potential long-term impacts to natural resources including water quality and aquatic resources in and adjacent to the easements.
The proposed pipeline is expected by the EPA to have significant impacts to karst areas in the State of Georgia and Florida and represents a potential threat to groundwater (and surface waters) resources. The EPA is requesting that the FERC develop an alternative route to avoid impacts to the Floridan Aquifer and its sensitive and vulnerable karst terrain. The EPA has recently received an emergency petition1 to designate the entire Floridan Aquifer System as a sole source aquifer pursuant to §1424(e) the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act. This designation is for areas that may have no alternative drinking water source physically and economically available to supply all who depend on the aquifer for drinking water. Moreover, the Florida Geological Survey has delineated a 32-county Springs Protection Area to protect the sole source of drinking water and the source of spring discharge, groundwater from the Floridan Aquifer.
1 April 28, 2015, emergency petition submitted by the Sierra Club Florida Chapter to the EPA.
The DEIS did not fully address the December of 2014’s Revised Draft Guidance for Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Climate Change Impacts issued by the President’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). As described in the guidance, “Unlike the 2010 draft guidance, the revised draft guidance applies to all proposed Federal agency actions”. The FERC should comply with the guidance and fully address the requirements in either a supplemental or final NEPA document. The EPA generally supports alternative, cleaner fossil fuels such as natural gas to replace coal— fired and oil-fired power plants. However, considering the potential magnitude of the proposed project and its resulting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the EPA is requesting that a full life cycle analysis (LCA) be conducted for the proposed pipeline project
The EPA has rated the DEIS’s preferred alternative as ‘EO-2’, meaning that we have ‘environmental objections’ to a significant ponion of the proposed pipeline route due to the magnitude of the impacts to jurisdictional wetlands and that we are requesting additional information that was not included. As currently proposed in the DEIS, the preferred alternative has the potential to violate the Section 404 requirements of the Clean Water Act. Appropriate and required avoidance and minimization measures to jurisdictional resources have not been documented and the plans to provide compensatory mitigation for unavoidable impacts were not disclosed in the DEIS. Furthermore, the proposed action has the potential to effect the designation of the Floridan Aquifer as a sole source aquifer under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The EPA has substantial environmental concerns that local community water supplies could be adversely impacted in the future. Additional clarification is also being requested for potential impacts to environmental justice (EJ) communities. The analysis performed in the DEIS does not fully inform the public as to the potential direct or indirect impacts to EJ communities resulting from the proposed action.
The EPA has attached its specific recommendations for the FERC’s further consideration. The EPA recommends that the FERC re-evaluate its environmental altematives analysis for routes that avoid environmentally sensitive areas including jurisdictional wetlands, conservation areas, EJ communities and sensitive karst terrain areas prior to proceeding with a final EIS (FEIS). As previously noted, the EPA also requests that the FERC fully investigate compliance with CEQ’s guidance on GHG emissions and climate change. For questions regarding EPA’s review of the DEIS and the attached detailed comments, please contact Ms. Beth Walls of my staff at firstname.lastname@example.org or 404-562-8309.
Christopher A. Militscher
Chief, NEPA Program Office
Resource Conservation and Restoration Division
Attachment: EPA’s detailed comments
Cc: Karin Leff, Acting Director, NEPA Compliance Division, EPA HQ
Tony Able, Chief, Wetlands Streams Regulatory Section, EPA R4
Fred McManus, Chief, Ground Water and UIC Section, EPA R4
Philip Mancusi-Ungaro, Ofﬁce of Regional Counsel, EPA R4
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