The Gainesville Sun has published OSFR’s new op-ed about the FERC moving onward in spite of everyone’s opposition except the oil industry. The DEP is issuing permits and a few final meetings are scheduled, formalities only it would seem. A small snag remains with the court proceedings initiated by WWALS, a hearing not yet on the calendar.
Read the opinion piece a this link in the Gainesville Sun.
Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson and Jim Tatum: Time running out to stop pipeline
By Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson and Jim Tatum
Special to The Sun
Published: Sunday, September 20, 2015 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, September 18, 2015 at 6:31 p.m.
The decision is coming down to the wire for Sabal Trail and its invasion of our riverbeds and springs systems. The pipeline has been met with nothing but negative comments throughout Georgia and Florida. People have turned out in droves to express their dissent.In spite of this, the pipeline’s backers have moved onward with their plan to install a 36” pipeline under the Suwannee and Santa Fe rivers, through the center of this fragile spring system. Our springs heartland is a regional identity unlike any in the world but vulnerable to developers and oil and gas companies.
Many environmental groups have been active in resisting. Our Santa Fe River Inc. was consistently at the scoping meetings voicing disapproval, and penned multiple op-eds against the pipeline.
The WWALS Watershed Coalition — which is headquartered in Valdosta, Georgia, along with Spectra Busters — has been the best organized and most vociferous group. As of this writing, the group has successfully obtained a hearing from an administrative law judge to challenge the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s granting of a permit for the pipeline. The date is not yet set.
“The staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (Commission or FERC) has prepared a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Southeast Market Pipelines Project (SMP Project). The SMP Project Draft EIS is a comprehensive environmental review of three separate, but connected, natural gas transmission pipeline projects.
The FERC staff concludes that approval of the SMP Project would have some adverse environmental impacts; however, these impacts would be reduced to less-than-significant levels with the implementation of the applicants’ proposed mitigation and the additional measures recommended in the draft EIS.”
The above statement was made by the FERC on Sept. 4, and means everything is OK, even though a burst pipeline might ruin a spring forever.
Ten years ago, President George W. Bush signed into law the Energy Policy Act of 2005, a windfall for fossil fuels and a disaster for our environment. This terrible act houses the infamous Halliburton loophole, which explicitly exempts fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act and gives the petroleum industry carte blanche (read immunity) to pollute at will.
This allows companies to inject undisclosed poisons into our earth with no accountability. This fuels the argument for the need of more pipelines to move more gas.
Equally bad, it gave the FERC the ultimate authority over fracked gas pipelines and infrastructure. And again, equally bad, it gave the FERC authority over the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, another law of protection now removed.
So much for the naïveté of innocent people who think your Environmental Protection Agency will safeguard our drinking water and our environment. It will not. It has bowed to the oil industry. Too many of our decision makers bask in the bliss of ignorance, since that is more convenient than researching the truth with an open mind.
Another thing that Bush’s Energy Policy Act did in 2005 was repeal the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935. This important act was an anti-monopoly law which protected energy consumers by prohibiting the formation of energy cartels which could manipulate and regulate energy costs, unfair pricing and exert unfair influence over politicians. This, again, gave the petroleum industry a huge amount of power, influence and money.
Things to know about the FERC: It is autonomous. Its members are appointed by the president and they are not accountable to anyone, neither Congress nor the White House. Their salaries are paid by the energy industry, the businessmen they regulate.
The FERC has a little help in Florida. Gov. Rick Scott appoints members of the Public Service Commission, the group with the authority to allow pipeline infrastructure in Florida. The FloridaBulldog.org wrote: “As detailed in a state financial disclosure form, the governor’s portfolio included several million dollars invested in the securities of more than two-dozen entities that produce and/or transport natural gas, including several, like Spectra, with substantial Florida operations.”
Since the governor has a money investment in Spectra, the Houston, Texas company that will design, build and operate the pipeline, it would be convenient for him if his appointees were to approve this company’s business activities here. And they have done so. More help for the FERC.
The governor also oversees our DEP. Recently the DEP issued a letter of intent to give FERC the permits needed for the pipeline in Florida.
— Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson is policy director of Our Santa Fe River Inc. and Jim Tatum is the group’s historian. Both live in Fort White.