Update 17 Dec 2016: What would you add? Comment here or send email to email@example.com. There will be a longer second version of this post.
Many new people and organizations are joining the opposition to the Sabal “Sinkhole” Trail fracked methane pipeline. Many of them ask me: why are we opposing this pipeline? It’s simple: our water, land, and air are more important than profit for a few utility executives and a few fossil fuel companies from Houston, Texas and Alberta, Canada. Solar power is now cheaper, faster to install, and far less destructive than any other power source, so the Sunshine State should turn directly to the sun.
Three years ago FPL said Sabal Trail was needed for new Florida electricity. FPL’s 2016 Ten Year Plan says Florida needs no new electricity until 2024 at the earliest. So why should we accept any destruction or risk for an unnecessary pipeline?
“Well, the Suwannee River crossing doesn’t, in fact, have any impacts to an [O]utstanding Florida Water because the directional drill commences in uplands and terminates in uplands. So there are no surface water impacts at that crossing that would affect the Outstanding Florida [W]ater.”
Yet already in the same geology on the Suwannee’s tributary the Withlacoochee River just across the GA-FL line Sabal Trail blew drilling mud up from its pilot hole into the Withlacoochee River in a frac-out and caused a sinkhole at its drilling site. Plus many sinkholes on Sabal Trail’s path in Florida, including two in public roads.
Yet the pipeline company behind Sabal Trail, Spectra Energy, had its Director of Stakeholder Outreach, Andra Grover, tell WTLV December 5th 2016:
“The two items you referenced are unrelated. The sinkhole is in an upland and approximately 1,400 feet from the previously reported inadvertent release.”
Really, Ms. Grover? Your own Sabal Trail reported that sinkhole was directly in the path of your horizontal directional drilling (HDD) for your $3 billion dollar pipeline and the frac-out was caused by its pilot hole and that doesn’t count as related? And why do you never mention Spectra’s thirty year rap sheet of corrosion, leaks, and explosions?
Plus probably nobody would have known about that frac-out if WWALS hadn’t happened to be flying over the next day and I hadn’t wondered what that yellow thing int he river was. It took Sabal Trail two weeks to give a non-answer, and yet more time to get a real answer, which finally came via the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD), not from the the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) that gave Sabal Trail a Clean Water Act Section 404 permit, nor from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that gave Sabal Trail a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity and federal eminent domain. At the same time I asked if there was a sinkhole at Sabal Trail’s Lowndes County, GA HDD site and Sabal Trail denied it, yet the next day it “discovered” a sinkhole at apparently that exact same location.
USACE flat refused to come investigate any sites after being requested to do so by four Florida Boards of County Commissioners. FERC is 100% funded by fees and charges on the same industries it “regulates”, which may explain why it has only denied one pipeline in thirty years. It’s called regulatory capture, or, more concisely, corruption.
Even though both GA-EPD and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) gave Sabal Trail Clean Water Act Section 401 permits, at least those state agencies have been willing to respond to reports of violations, with FDEP on at least some occasions making Sabal Trail stop work until it cleans up its act, and GA-EPD just discovered Sabal Trail off its right of way without a variance, although only after WWALS sent a complaint about other possible violations in the same location. Both state agencies (and probably Alabama’s equivalent) are seriously underfunded, understaffed, and the governors of each of the three states being invaded by Sabal Trail either took campaign finance contributions from Spectra Energy PAC or in the case of Florida’s Governor Rick Scott at least used to own stock in Spectra Energy.
We, environmental organizations, landowners, ordinary citizens, went to Sabal Trail’s Open Houses and FERC’s Scopring Meetings, where the sentiment was overwhelmingly against this pipeline. So Sabal Trail and FERC checked some boxes for holding a bunch of meetings and “listening” to a bunch of people, and then went ahead with their path of destruction anyway.
Georgia is already the fastest-growing U.S. solar market. Florida voted for solar power in November by defeating Amendment 1. SolarCity, the biggest solar panel installer in the country, because of that vote opened operations in Florida. Electric car maker Tesla, which just bought Solarcity, made more profit in one quarter than the oil industry made all last year. As solar prices keep dropping, solar deployments keep increasing, second only to natural gas in U.S. this year. The solar industry has more jobs now than oil and gas extraction. According to Sabal Trail’s own figures, solar panels on half their pipeline’s acreage could produce just as much electricity. Stanford Professor Mark Z. Jacobson’s research group has spelled out for each and every U.S. state how to power everything on sun, wind, and water power by 2050. Everything including transportation, heating, and cooling: everything by 2050, with the electric grid converted by 2025 if we have the will. Or even if we don’t: with more solar jobs than oil and gas extraction jobs, sheer economics may get us there anyway.
So why should we accept any risk to our main source of drinking water, the Floridan Aquifer? Why should we accept any risk to our rivers? Why should anyone have to give up land to eminent domain for an unnecessary, destructive, and hazardous $3 billion pipeline invasion?
This is all without even getting into fracking in Pennsylvania destroying water supplies up there, compressor stations poisoning people there and soon here if this pipeline goes in, and the half a dozen liquid natural gas (LNG) export operations already authorized in Florida, including transit by truck and rail as far as Miami and Jacksonville, where Jaxport has been loudly gearing up for LNG export for years now, abetted by famous oil man T. Boone Pickens.
People are getting arrested in Florida for this boondoggle. Which, did I mention, is now directly related to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), since Enbridge, one of the two DAPL pipeline companies, is buying Spectra.
Sabal Trail claims its work is so good there’s no significant risk. Well, we’ve already seen that’s not true, and they’re rushing hell-for-leather to finish by May 2017 so they’re even more likely to make mistakes. Oh, wait, they’ve already slipped to June 2017! So let’s hold them to their promise: report potential violations, and at that link there are many other things you can do, including demanding Congress rein in the rogue agency FERC.
For three years now we all have dotted every i and crossed every t of the numerous state and federal formal processes, and USACE and FERC rubberstamped this boondoggle anyway. Now people are directly opposing Sabal Trail’s construction on the ground. WWALS is not directly involved in that, but we will be reporting on it.
A more comprehensive statement with extensive references is in preparation. But this sums it up:
We oppose Sabal Trail because our water, land, and air are more important than corporate profit.
#NoSabal Trail, #NoDAPL, #WaterIsLife.
You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!