Pipeline poses multiple problems
By Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson and Jim Tatum
Special to The Sun
Published: Monday, August 18, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 15, 2014 at 11:49 p.m.
The latest attempt by Sabal Trail to whitewash the downside of the proposed natural gas pipeline appeared in The Sun on Aug. 9
Andrea Grover’s column hit the same six main points all over again regarding the pipe: need, exportation, safety, the environment, eminent domain and public relations. The truth behind each of these issues resides just about 180 degrees from what was written.
Again, we must point out that Florida Power & Light just recently estimated that in 10 years the demand for power will increase approximately 13 percent, but the Sabal Trail’s new pipeline would have an increase of 33 percent delivery capability. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency filed a report with Federal Energy Regulatory Commission saying that the recently completed (2011) Southeast Supply Header System was designed as an “alternative natural-gas source during hurricane-related disruptions in the Gulf of Mexico.”
The EPA asks why another 36-inch-diameter line is needed so soon after this one just built three years ago, and also says Sabal Trail has not provided documentation nor sufficient information to show a need for the diversity and reliability cited in the article.
So if Sabal Trail’s own parent company, Spectra, has projected that 10 years from now the proposed pipe would have the capability to carry 20 percent more gas than is required in Florida, why do we need it? Maybe to export it.
Grover says Sabal Trail is not seeking approval to export gas. No, maybe not just now, but they can legally sell the gas after storage in Florida, and the buyer can export. The permits are written, the ocean is there, the ships are built, the scene is set. So, what are the assurances this will not happen? Absolutely none. What is the likelihood that it will? Absolutely pretty good.
Another possibility is that over time, liquefied natural gas may not be transmitted in this proposed pipe. Other liquids, such as water, could feasibly be moved through this infrastructure. The corridor, the pipe, and the permits would be in place. FERC representative John Peconom confirmed this at the Bell scoping meeting.
Grover seems to think that if she cites all the agencies that will approve this pipe, somehow, this will make it safe. Spectra has one of the worst safety records of all gas companies. This is a fact. In 1989 Spectra was fined $15 million by the EPA for violations. Cleanup was expected to run over $400 million.
But no lesson was learned here. In 2012, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration cited a Spectra company for seven serious pipeline safety violations, including failure to monitor its pipeline for corrosion and failure to control for corrosion. Other major accidents have occurred in Pennsylvania in 2013 and in Maine in January 2014.
Regarding the environment, no amount of regulations and approvals will help if a sinkhole occurs at the pipeline foundation. If this company truly understood what karst terrain means, it would look elsewhere or not do this at all. There can be no denial, however, that the environment will surely be impacted negatively, and that a danger does exist for the potential of damage to the springs system if an explosion, such as what already happened in various locales, took place.
Of the remaining issues touched on in the column, it is stated that Sabal Trail “does not and will not use eminent domain authority as a negotiation tool with landowners. Respectively, Sabal Trail only exercises that right as a means of last resort.” Again, we must remember that eminent domain may not be exercised to obtain land used for a product destined for export. As of this writing, this is not proposed, but we have no assurances that it will remain this way. Once the pipe is built, and the gas begins to move overseas, the landowners cannot be given their land back.
Concerning open houses, public meetings, community input and open lines of communication, it would be interesting to see an accurate ratio of comments opposing this pipeline to those supporting the proposal. Without a doubt, the negative by far overwhelms the support. At the seven meetings we attended, three supported, many dozens opposed. Support is not even a drop in the bucket compared to opposition.
In Grover’s words, building the pipeline is a long process, and it is moving forward. But little has changed: The people of the area do not want it, a need for it has not been established, there is a very real danger associated with explosive gases, and this company has shown itself to be irresponsible in the past and has an abominable safety record. Let us hope FERC has the intelligence, honesty and fortitude to deny it.
Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson is president of Our Santa Fe River Inc. and Jim Tatum is a volunteer member.