OSFR president Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson and historian Jim Tatum have an article about Sabal Trail’s proposed pipeline across Florida in the latest newsletter of the Alachua Audubon Society. We thank Debra Segal, editor of the newsletter for allowing us to voice our opinions on this bad idea. Continue reading to see the article:
“The Crane” Alachua Audubon Society Vol. 56 Number 2 Nov-Dec 2014 Page 10
Proposed Pipeline Poses Many Problems
Last October the Florida Public Service Committee (FPSC) approved construction of a new 465-mile, 36-inch pipeline to be built from Alabama to south Florida. Construction will be directed by Florida Power and Light and built by Sabal Trail, whose parent company is Spectra Energy. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will submit a detailed study recommending approval or rejection of the pipeline project. FERC will accept and consider public comments.
Much controversy surrounds this project, be-ginning with the revelation that Governor Scott, who appoints the FPSC, has personal investments in the power companies and thus stands to benefit from its construction.
The original proposed route was slated to cross the Ichetucknee River, but due to public opposition, the pipeline route has been moved west and will cross the Santa Fe River. If this company truly understood what karstic terrain means, they would not consider constructing a pipeline in the sinkhole-prone landscape of north Florida, nor would they consider crossing the Santa Fe or Ichetucknee Rivers. A real danger exists to the springs and spring-fed rivers if an explosion, such as already happened in various locales, took place.
There are strong indications that the line is not needed to supply power to Florida, which leads to the suspicion that the plan is to sell the gas to a company for export. Florida Power & Light just recently estimated that in ten years the demand for power will in-crease approximately 13%, but the new pipeline would increase the delivery capability of 33%. So if Sabal Trail’s own parent company, Spectra, has projected that ten years from now the proposed pipe would have the capability to carry 20% more gas than is required in Florida, then the suspicion is to export it. Sabal Trail is not seeking approval to export gas right now, but they can legally sell the gas after storage in Florida, and the buyer can export it. The permits are written, the ocean is there, the ships are built, the scene is set.
Another possibility is that over time liquid natural gas (LNG) may not be transmitted in this pro-posed pipe. Other liquids, such as water, could feasibly be moved through this infrastructure. The corridor, the pipe, and the permits would be in place. Is this pipeline the infrastructure needed to eventually pipe water from north Florida to thirsty south Florida, further depleting the aquifer and springs?
More controversy exists since the pipe will carry LNG, touted as the cleanest fossil fuel, but is acquired by fracking and LNG is rapidly losing its desirability as a clean fuel. Spectra has one of the worst safety records of all gas companies. In 1989, Spectra was fined $15 million by the EPA for violations, the largest federal fine ever for an environmental violation. Cleanup was expected to run over $400 million.
Sabal Trail has stated that it does not and will not use eminent domain authority as a negotiation tool with landowners to obtain an easement for the pipeline. However, Sabal Trail has exercised that right as a means of last resort. Eminent domain may not be exercised to obtain land used for a product destined for export. Although export of natural gas is not pro-posed, 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.
At the seven public meetings held by Spectra Energy, the vast majority of the attendees who spoke were opposed to the pipeline. Opposition to the pipe-line is because of the potential devastating impacts to the springs, rivers, and aquifer; lack of an established need for the LNG; the real danger associated with explosive gases; and because 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 the permit.
Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson is president of Our Santa Fe River, Inc., and Jim Tatum is a volunteer member.