Sabal Trail today spelled out that they are not required to notify anybody about their chronic leaks of hazardous odorant chemicals, as if that explains everything.
Moe Curly Howard of the Three Stooges, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, around 1938, the year
the Natural Gas Act was originally passed,
giving the predecessor of FERC the ability to hire staff and also presumably to buy a rubberstamp.
Two years ago the judge in WWALS vs. Sabal Trail & FDEP insisted that we couldn’t even ask about pipeline safety, because the Pipeline Safety Act relegates safety concerns of interstate natural gas pipelines to the federal government, mostly to the Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), or maybe to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) during permitting. Well, neither PHMSA nor FERC were even informed of this chronic stink leak incident, and neither of them did anything about it, nor did any other federal or state agency. Marion County was left to deal with it unassisted.
Even PHMSA says on their website that the Pipeline Safety Act:
Protects and preserves Congressional authority by ensuring certain key rulemakings are not finalized until Congress has an opportunity to act
OK, Congress, how about an Act requiring pipeline companies to notify PHMSA and other agencies, including local emergency responders, and for PHMSA to do its job? While you’re at it, please take eminent domain out of the Natural Gas Act so we won’t get any more of these fracked methane boondoogles. Requiring FERC to get on with solar power would also be good.
This part in Sabal Trail’s response today to the WWALS letter to OSHA of August 11, 2017 (copied to FERC) is really rich:
However, to alleviate concerns in the community, Sabal Trail has been in contact with local emergency departments to communicate the nature and cause of the smell, as well as the repair activities that Sabal Trail is performing.
Actually, when Marion County Fire Rescue showed up on the site and demanded to know what was going on, Sabal Trail (or more likely their contractors) grudgingly revealed a few details. While those contractors wrapped the leak in towels, sprayed it with deodorant, and waited until morning.
Still Sabal Trail doesn’t admit the odorant leaked on July 17, not just July 16, although they don’t say it didn’t. They admit there’s some sort of ongoing work, but they don’t say what.
Read this carefully:
No natural gas leak occurred at any time related to the reports of a smell from the vicinity of Sabal Trail’s Dunnellon Compressor Station site.
That doesn’t say no natural gas leak occured at some other time or not related to those reports of a smell. How would we know if Sabal Trail has already leaked methane somewhere else or at some other time?
They still haven’t answered simple questions from the original 19 Questions (the July 27, 2017 letter from WWALS to FERC), such as:
- Who asked for the mercaptan or some other odor-generating additive to be added, and when? FERC, FDEP, Marion County, Citrus County, other?
- Is gas being sent through the Citrus County Pipeline?
- Local people have expressed concern about their well water and city water, because of drilling and testing water and disturbances of the ground perhaps including sinkholes. What baseline water samples were taken by Sabal Trail or the permitting agencies in the vicinity of the Dunnellon Compressor Station site before Sabal Trail construction?
- What water well or city water samples have been taken in the vicinity of the Dunnellon Compressor Station site since Sabal Trail went in service?
- Where was drilling and testing water disposed of, and when?
- Was any drilling or testing water disposed of in wetlands, such as the one unnaturally browner than the surrounding vegetation pictured below on the Sabal Trail right of way?
And they don’t address the worker safety issues raised in the WWALS August 11, 2017 letter to OSHA.
Sabal Trail’s response can be summed up in the immortal words of Curly Howard: “Nyuk nyuk nyuk!”
There are still things you can do to help.
-jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®
You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!
FERC Accession Number 20170815-5126, “Sabal Trail Transmission, LLC response to August 11 Letter of WWALS Watershed Coalition under CP15-17.”
August 15, 2017
Ms. Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street, NE
Washington, D.C. 20426
Re: Sabal Trail Transmission, LLC, Docket No. CP15-17-000
Response to August 11 Letter of WWALS Watershed Coalition
Dear Ms. Bose:
On February 2, 2016, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC” or “Commission”) issued an Order Issuing Certificates and Approving Abandonment (“February2 Order”) in the above-referenced docket granting Sabal Trail Transmission, LLC (“Sabal Trail”), among other authorizations, certificates of public convenience and necessity to construct the Sabal Trail Project (“Project”) over three phases to create total firm transportation capacity of 1,075,000 dekatherms per day (“Dth/d”).1 Phase I of the Project is designed to provide 830,000 Dth/d of capacity. On June 14, 2017, Sabal Trail commenced service on certain of the Phase I Project facilities to provide up to 470,000 Dth/d,2 and on July 3, 2017, Sabal Trail commenced service on additional Phase I Project facilities and increased its service capacity to 830,000 Dth/d.3
WWALS Watershed Coalition (“WWALS”) submitted a letter in the above-referenced docket on August 11, 2017 (“August 11 Letter”). The August 11 Letter is a follow up to a similar letter dated July 27, 2017, which WWALS also submitted in the above-referenced docket, related to reports of a natural gas smell in the vicinity of Sabal Trail’s Dunnellon Compressor Station site in Marion County, Florida. The August 11 Letter states residents reported an odorant smell in early August, following reports of a similar smell on July 16, 2017. The August 11 Letter additionally states that there were no notifications from Sabal Trail to state and federal permitting agencies, PHMSA, and local emergency management departments of the odorant smell. This response provides additional information related to the cause of the smell, reporting requirements, and communications that Sabal Trail has made to stakeholders.
Sabal Trail submitted a response to WWALS’ July 27, 2017 letter on July 28, 2017 (“July 28 Response”). The July 28 Response explained that Sabal Trail’s Phase I facilities at the Dunnellon Compressor Station site include a number of pipeline-related appurtenances, such as a launcher/receiver barrel and two odorant tanks and equipment. The July 28 Response additionally provided that following notification to Sabal Trail of the odorant smell, Sabal Trail operations personnel made an adjustment to a fitting at one of the odorant tanks. There was no natural gas leak. Since that time, Sabal Trail personnel have found that additional adjustments are required to the odorant tank and equipment, and such work is currently underway. No natural gas leak occurred at any time related to the reports of a smell from the vicinity of Sabal Trail’s Dunnellon Compressor Station site.
The WWALS August 11 Letter states that no notifications to state or federal agencies occurred. While that is correct, the cause for the smell and the necessary repairs are not activities for which notification to state or federal agencies is required, and there was no report for Sabal Trail to make to any governing agency. However, to alleviate concerns in the community, Sabal Trail has been in contact with local emergency departments to communicate the nature and cause of the smell, as well as the repair activities that Sabal Trail is performing.
If you have any questions regarding this filing, please contact me at (713) 627-4102 or David A. Alonzo, Specialist I, Rates and Certificates at (713) 627-4957.
/s/ Lisa A. Connolly
Lisa A. Connolly
Director, Rates and Certificates
Sabal Trail Management, LLC
Operator of Sabal Trail Transmission, LLC
cc: John Peconom (FERC)
Pamela Boudreau (FERC)
All parties of record in Docket No. CP15-17-000
1 Florida Southeast Connection, LLC, et al.,154 FERC ¶ 61,080 (2016). The February2 Order also granted authorizations to Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company, LLC and Florida Southeast Connection, LLC, related to the Hillabee Expansion Project and the Florida Southeast Connection Project, respectively.
2 Notice of Commencement of Service and Acquisition of Lease Capacity, Docket No. CP15-17-000, et al. (Jun. 20, 2017).
3 Notice of Commencement of Service and Acquisition of Lease Capacity, Docket No. CP15-17-000 (Jul. 11, 2017).