One more government agency has re-defined “environment” to mean “private business,” as we see that the EPA is now protecting a private business venture. This is simply a step up from the lower-eschelon water management districts and the state-level DEP, all of which also define “environment” as “private business.” Our judges also define an individual private business as a “public interest” endeavor.
Our English dictionary grows fat with new words and definitions.
You can see this article by Christopher Curry in the Gainesville Sun, Thursday, December 17, 2015.EPA reverses position on Sabal Trail pipeline
By Christopher Curry
Published: Wednesday, December 16, 2015 at 11:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 16, 2015 at 11:01 a.m.
The lone government agency with environmental concerns over the planned Sabal Trail pipeline has changed its tune and dropped its objections.
In a Dec. 11 letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stated that it changed its stance after meeting with Sabal Trail company representatives, reviewing written comments from the company’s vice president/deputy general counsel and looking “more closely” at the project.
The EPA now believes the company “fully considered avoidance and minimization of impacts during the development of the preferred route” for the natural gas pipeline.
The Corps of Engineers is the agency that will decide whether to issue a Clean Water Act permit allowing Sabal Trail to discharge dredged or fill material into water during construction.
The EPA decision is a reversal of the “very significant concerns” over potential impacts to wetlands, wildlife habitat, rivers, springs and the aquifer the agency raised in late October in response to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) staff determination that the project would not have significant environmental impacts.
The planned 515-mile, $3.2 billion project is now closer to construction. The 36-inch-wide pipeline is planned to carry up to 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day from Alabama, through part of Georgia and a dozen Florida counties — including Alachua, Gilchrist, Suwannee, Levy and Marion — to a connector pipeline in Osceola County.
The project is primarily meant to provide natural gas for Florida Power & Light electric generation in South Florida, with a smaller amount going to Duke Energy in Citrus County.
Representatives of environmental groups opposed to the pipeline’s route, which is planned to cross under the Suwannee and Santa Fe rivers, through springs protection zones, conservation areas and several hundred acres of wetlands, questioned the EPA’s decision.
“This sudden, 180-degree reversal raises the question of whether the pipeline’s powerful investors pulled political strings to get EPA to back away from the objections it raised a few months ago in a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission,” said Frank Jackalone, senior organizing manager for Sierra Club Florida.
In a message on its website, the South Georgia environmental group WWALS Watershed Coalition, which recently launched an unsuccessful challenge against a Florida permit for the pipeline, raised concerns about the EPA’s reliance on information provided by Houston-based Spectra Energy, the firm that will build, own and operate the pipeline.
In an email, Spectra Energy spokeswoman Andrea Grover said the company appreciates the comments sent by the EPA to the Corps of Engineers. She wrote that company officials feel the revised comments are a result of further review of both the Corps of Engineers’ public notices on the permit application and the pertinent sections of FERC’s draft report on the pipeline’s projected environmental impacts, as well as additional information from the company.
In its October comments, EPA officials said the route passes through some of the most vulnerable areas of the Floridan aquifer, areas of porous limestone prone to sinkholes and characterized by underground caverns and streams.
The agency estimated there are at least 3,750 known or potential karst features, such as sinkholes or underground caverns, within a quarter-mile of the pipeline route.
The route crosses sensitive areas of the Floridan aquifer at a time when the Sierra Club of Florida has submitted an emergency petition to the federal government to protect the aquifer as the state’s biggest drinking water source, the EPA stated.
The planned route will cross some 178 acres of conservation areas, including the Green Swamp.
While FERC and Sabal Trail officials say those natural areas will return to their natural state over time, the EPA “does not believe that this proposition is accurate,” the October letter said.
In the far shorter letter sent last week, the EPA said the prior estimate that the project would impact 1,255 acres of wetlands was too high and that, according to the pipeline company’s information, 882 acres would be impacted.
The EPA also backed off its earlier comments questioning the accuracy of the statement that the areas would return to their natural state over time. The new letter said EPA now “understands that a large percentage of these wetlands will be allowed to revegetate” with 235 acres destroyed.
Reversing course on sinkhole potential and groundwater threats, the EPA said it is “unlikely the pipeline would impact the Floridan Aquifer through karst or sinkhole features” and that, based on information from the pipeline company, the route avoids many of the most sensitive areas and likely would not significantly affect karst areas in the pipeline path.
Avoiding the Floridan Aquifer “would be impossible” since it runs under all of Florida and part of Georgia and that if the pipeline ruptures, natural gas “would most likely vent to the atmosphere and would not contaminate” groundwater or the aquifer, the EPA now says.
The EPA also said the company has altered the proposed pipeline route to avoid sensitive environmental areas, including the edge of Halpata Tastanaki Preserve in Marion County.