OSFR President Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson Publishes OP Ed in Today’s Gainesville Sun

Sunday, June 8, 2014







OSFR President Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, along with board member Jim Tatum, wrote today, in a special to the Sun, “Where will the gas go?”  dealing with the possible exportation of natural gas in the proposed new Sabal Trails gas pipeline.  Go HERE  for the original article or continue reading.

Where will the gas go?

Countless hours, dollar amounts and newspaper space have been spent over the past few months concerning a natural gas pipeline proposed by Sabal Trail Transmission.

This is a current hot topic that draws a lot of interest because fracking contaminates the aquifer, harms the environment, puts human life at risk and involves billions of dollars in profit. Additionally, in order to lay the new pipe, Sabal Trail wants to wrest land parcels from unwilling owners, employing eminent domain laws.

One of the main questions that has arisen during the Sabal Trail/public interaction at the scoping meetings has been concerning the ultimate destiny of the gas product: Will it be used by Floridians for power consumption, or will it be exported to foreign countries for profit? During the scoping meetings, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) representatives have consistently said that the issue at hand is not about liquefied natural gas exportation, and that Sabal Trail does not need authorization to export natural gas; only the customer who receives it needs that.

First, we might ask if the projected needs of the Florida power consumers warrant a new large pipe (three feet in diameter and huge by pipe standards) and perhaps why Florida Power and Light is not looking more aggressively into renewable/sustainable power resources for the next decade?

It is interesting that Florida Power and Light, in April 2014, submitted a ten-year power plant site plan to the Florida Public Service Commission. In this 200-plus-page plan, it projects an approximate 13 percent increase in demand, but the new Sabal Trail pipeline, at three feet in diameter, would provide approximately 33 percent greater delivery of gas. This, despite the recent news that Duke Energy plans to apply for permits to build a peaking station with two gas-fired generators at the Suwannee County power plant near Live Oak.

Some of the most hard-hitting questions/challenges to Sabal Trail’s inadequate explanation of need for this pipeline have been outlined in the April 23 report that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency filed with the FERC. This report, signed by Chief Heinz J. Mueller, questions or refutes every one of Sabal’s weak justifications for needing the new pipe. The EPA has many more questions regarding the final approval of the pipeline. These are only a few concerning the alleged need for it.

Continuing to seek the truth regarding the ultimate destiny of the gas transported in the proposed new pipe, let us look at some of the comments written by Florida Power and Light Vice President Sam Forrest in an April 21 letter to FERC regarding exportation of natural gas:

“Even if Florida were to have facilities to export natural gas (it currently does not), FPL has entered into its contracts with the SMP Project in order to deliver the natural gas it needs to generate electricity. Quite simply, FPL is not in the natural gas export business; in fact, FPL does not even have the legal authorization necessary to export natural gas.”

Technically, this is correct, but Florida will soon have the facilities, and they will be very close to the end of the pipe. Not only that, but FPL already has potential customers who do have “the legal authorization” mentioned by Forrest.

On Nov. 14, the U.S. Dept. of Energy, Office of Fossil Energy Advanced Energy Solutions issued an “Order granting long-term, multi-contract authorization to export liquefied natural gas in ISO containers loaded at the Floridian Facility in Martin County, Florida, and exported via ocean-going vessel to free trade agreement nations in Central America and the Caribbean.”

On page three of this authorization it states that FERC has approved this facility, and it is planned to be in operation by the end of 2015 (although the company’s homepage now says in 2016). The authorization is signed by John A. Anderson and was issued to the Floridian Natural Gas Storage Company LLC, to be built near Indiantown.

Even more possible points of export could easily be approved. In an article in the Tampa Bay Times, Ivan Penn writes that FPL has a gas plant recently constructed in Cape Canaveral and is building two more in Riviera Beach and in Port Everglades, thus enabling exportation from multiple points on Florida’s east coast.

So here we have it. A huge, 36-inch pipeline whose raison d’être is in question by legitimate agencies, whose liquified natural gas transport capacity exceeds even the needs projected by the company building it and which will soon have a convenient, legally permitted storage/exportation facility right by the end of the pipe. What is one supposed to think? How will this play out?

Has the Florida Public Service Commission been duped by Florida Light & Power? Will the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission allow a profit-making private enterprise to take lands from citizens and put the public and the springs at risk under the guise of serving the needs of the people and creating a few jobs? Has Sabal Trail Transmission/Spectra Energy/Florida Light & Power disclosed their true motives and intent?

Is the truth finally coming out?

Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson is president and Jim Tatum is a board member of Our Santa Fe River Inc., www.oursantaferiver.org.

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