Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
Sierra Club wins Sabal Trail ruling
U.S. Court of Appeals finds federal regulators did not fully consider environmental impact.
A U.S. District Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. ruled 2-1 against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Tuesday for failing to include enough information on the impact greenhouse-gas emissions carried by a network of pipelines, including Sabal Trail Transmission.
The case was filed by the national and Florida Sierra Club, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group, in August 2016 and based on FERC’s environmental impact study for the Sabal Trail pipeline.
It is not immediately clear the ruling will have any impact on operations of the gas pipeline that runs through north central Florida, including parts of Alachua, Levy, Gilchrist and Marion counties.
The Sabal Trail pipeline, which became operational in June, is a 515-mile natural gas project that travels from Alexander City, Alabama through Georgia and Florida. It has been controversial across Florida for the past few years with protesters saying the $3.2 billion pipeline would be harmful to the environment and Floridan Aquifer.
Merrille Malwitz-Jipson, an organizer with the Sierra Club, said the ruling sets a precedent for the protection of the environment moving forward.
“Just because (the pipeline) is on, we know it’s not over until we pull that thing out of the ground,” she said.
The courts found even though FERC didn’t include enough information about the emissions, FERC acted properly in other respects. The network of pipeline in question are branches of the Southeast Market Pipelines Project, which is made up of the Hillabee Expansion, Sabal Trail and Florida Southeast Connection pipelines.
Sabal Trail connects to the Florida Southeast Connection, which will connect to a power plant in Martin County. The ruling found the lack of information was in large part, to the Martin County area, Malwitz-Jipson said.
Protesters of the Sabal Trail pipeline are hopeful the ruling means the newly operational syphon will be shut off, but it is unknown if that will happen.
In an email, Sabal Trail spokeswoman Andrea Grover said the company is reviewing the decision and that the court’s decision “will not affect Sabal Trail’s operations at this time.”
Contractors building a compressor station in Dunnellon in Marion County, which will connect to the pipeline, are also still working to repair a odorant tank leak. The leak was first reported last month.
In a Sierra Club press release, the club’s Florida director, Frank Jackalone, said Floridians have been aware of the dangers from the project and have spoken against it.
“That fear was manifested when this project began leaking into our communities the other week, and it’s why a thorough review of this pipeline will show that it must be — and should have been — rejected,” he said.