FPL gets green light for Sabal Trail pipeline; Trump hails Dakota Access

The Sabal Trail and Florida Southeast Connection natural gas pipelines have been given permission to start pushing through gas that will serve Florida Power & Light’s South Florida plants.

The $4 billion pipeline that starts in Alabama has been controversial, and litigation seeking to prevent it from operating is still in the court system.

FPL’s Riviera Beach plant is among those fueled by natural gas.

» Eminent domain and BBQ: When they build a pipeline on your land

The approvals were announced the same day that, in a speech advocating his infrastructure plan, President Donald Trump boasted that the Dakota Access pipeline is in operation, too.

“I’m also very proud to say the Dakota Access Pipeline is now officially open for business,” Trump said. “It was dead 120 days ago, and now it is officially open for business.”

Click here to read about the Sierra Club’s objections.

» Protest to target Sabal Trail, other pipelines as Trump departs

Friday, Rich McGuire, Federal Regulatory Energy Commission’s director, Division of Gas, Environment and Engineering gave the the go-ahead in a letter to William Lavarco of Florida Southeast Connection. The 126-mile underground pipeline runs from Osceola County south of Orlando to FPL’s Indiantown plant.

FPL spokesman Dave McDermitt said Friday that the pipeline is expected to be operating by early next week.

Construction on the $4 billion project began in August 2016.

» Feds give go-ahead to Sabal Trail natural gas pipeline project

In a separate letter also issued Friday FERC officials gave Sabal Trail Transmission permission to begin operating:

  • 482.4 miles of mainline (and associated appurtenances) between the northern interconnect in Tallapoosa County, Alabama and the southern interconnect in Osceola County, Florida;
  • Alexander City Compressor Station in Tallapoosa County, Alabama;
  • Reunion Compressor Station in Osceola County, Florida; and
  • Transco Hillabee, Gulfstream, and FSC Meter and Regulator Station
  • FPL says the state’s other two pipelines are at capacity, and it needs more cheap, clean natural gas to generate electricity for the state’s growing population. FPL’s transition to natural gas to produce about 70 percent of its power has enabled the company to retire older oil and coal-burning plants.The project has been widely opposed by environmental groups and residents of the communities along the route. They have asserted that the pipeline will harm the Florida Aquifer, which supplies water to millions of people in Florida and Georgia, and could damage wetlands, scenic rivers and wildlife habitat and pose a safety threat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Groups opposed to gas pipelines call for review of federal agency

wwals

Protestors came out to Suwannee River State Park this

summer to oppose the Sabal Trail pipeline.

A group opposed to the Sabal Trail pipeline  is among more than 180 organizations  which on  Wednesday  called for Congressional reform of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The groups, representing communities in 35 states,  asked the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and House Energy and Commerce Committee to hold hearings into what they called FERC’s “extensive history of bias and abuse.”

They are also asking for reform of the Natural Gas Act, which the groups say, gives too much power to FERC and too little to state and local officials.

WWALS Watershed Coalition, the Waterkeeper affiliate for the upper Suwannee River, has opposed the Sabal Trail Pipeline, which  will originate in Alabama and connect with  the Florida Southeast Connection pipeline.  Next year, the pipeline is slated to begin supplying natural gas to Florida Power & Light’s plants in South Florida, including its Riviera Beach energy center.

“A prime example of FERC’s dereliction of duty to the public benefit is the Sabal Trail fracked methane pipeline Spectra Energy is drilling through Alabama, Georgia, Florida and under our Withlachoochee River in Georgia and our Suwannee River in Florida,” said John Quarterman, president of WWALS.

FERC gave its final approval to the southern piece of the pipeline in August.

“The number of frack gas pipelines is exploding and the feds are not only not  applying appropriate oversight, but are n fact also enabling the trampling of people’s property rights, public health standards and environmental protection,” said David Pringle, New Jersey Campaign Director, Clean Water Action.

FERC is funded through fees assessed to companies seeking permits and annual charges are assessed generally to the regulated industries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Groups file petition to block construction of FPL natural gas pipeline

Turtles bask along the Suwannee River, where a proposed pipeline could run underground.
Turtles bask along the Suwannee River, where a proposed pipeline could run underground.

Gulf Restoration Network, Flint Riverkeeper, and the Sierra Club filed a petition Wednesday seeking to block construction of a $3.2 billion pipeline slated to bring natural gas to Florida Power & Light’s South Florida plants next year.

The action was filed in federal court in Atlanta against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for its issuance of five Clean Water Act permits that would allow construction of the 515-mile Florida Southeast Market Pipelines Project, including the Sabal Trail pipeline.

The petition seeks an expedited review of the Corps’ decision.

Pipeline officials had no immediate comment.

This project would transport fracked gas across 699 waterbodies, lakes, rivers, and streams and harm 1,958 wetland systems in  Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.

In addition, the project would include five compressor stations contributing significant amounts of air pollution. Despite widespread local opposition to the project, state and federal agencies are continuing to proceed.

Last week the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave its final approval  for construction to begin on to the southernmost portion of the pipeline, consisting of 126 miles from Central Florida to Martin County. FERC has not yet given the northern portion, known as Sabal Trail, the final go-ahead.

If built, the fracked gas pipeline would extend throughout Florida and southern Georgia over an area that provides drinking water to approximately 10 million people. Pipeline construction alone poses a threat to local water resources as the process threatens to release hazardous materials and drilling mud into the aquifer, polluting the drinking water, and resulting in rapid transmission of drilling mud over great distances, the groups said.

The lawsuit alleges the Corps failed to provide proper notice and public participation. The lawsuit further charges that the planned pipeline fails to avoid, minimize or mitigate the adverse environmental impacts.

“Communities in Florida and Georgia have clearly stated that they do not want this dangerous fracked-gas pipeline polluting their water or their neighborhoods. We have collected 25,000 signatures in opposition to the pipeline, but the Army Corps is just not listening,” said Johanna DeGraffenreid with Gulf Restoration Network. “The public has continually been left out of the decision making process for this project and that is unacceptable. Our water and communities are too important to risk for an unnecessary pipeline.”

Steve Caley, Legal Director at GreenLaw, said “the Floridan Aquifer, one of the largest freshwater aquifers in the world which supplies drinking water to millions of people in the southeastern United States, has a close connection to the water bodies and wetlands that will be negatively impacted or destroyed by the Southeast Market Pipelines Project.  Given the threats this Project poses to this critical water supply, the Corps’ failure to follow clearly established law by transparently evaluating and disclosing for public review and comment how those negative effects will be mitigated is particularly egregious.”

Eric Huber, managing attorney for the Sierra Club, said, “Essentially what happened is the Corps stated FERC addressed mitigation while FERC stated the Corps would do it. As a result, neither agency analyzed the issue and the public had no chance to review and comment on it. To make matters worse, the Corps was aware of several less damaging routes but did not choose them, causing unnecessary destruction to wetlands through the heart of southern Georgia and Florida.”

 

Florida SE Connection gas pipeline construction to begin, will supply FPL

This map shows the pipeline's route.
This map shows the pipeline’s route.

Federal regulators have given the go-ahead for construction to begin on the southern portion of a new $3.2 billion natural gas pipeline slated to supply Florida Power & Light Co.’s  South Florida plants.

Friday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted Florida Southeast Connection LLC’s request to commerce construction. The company is a subsidary of FPL’s parent company, NextEra Energy Inc., Juno Beach.

Florida Southeast Connection spokesman Dave McDermitt said, “Final approval of this vital underground natural gas pipeline is a significant milestone for Florida Southeast Connection, FPL customers and the Florida economy.

“This culminates a comprehensive, 2.5-year review by numerous federal, state and local government agencies to ensure the project meets or exceeds strict environmental and other regulatory requirements,” McDermitt said. “We look forward to beginning construction activities soon so that Florida can begin to benefit from an additional and necessary supply of clean, U.S.-produced natural gas.”

Florida Southeast Connection is the 126-mile southernmost portion of a 685-mile pipeline that originates in Alabama. It will go through Osceola, Polk, Okeechobee. St. Lucie and Martin counties and end at FPL’s Martin County plant near Indiantown.

FPL uses the fossil fuel to provide 71 percent of the fuel to run its power plants.

The northernmost 515 miles, known as Sabal Trail, is a joint venture of Houston-based Spectra Energy Partners, LP, FPL’s parent company NextEra Energy Inc., Juno Beach, and Duke Energy of Charlotte, N.C.

The project also includes Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co.’s 48-mile Hillabee Expansion Project and six new compressor stations.

Sabal Trail spokeswoman Andrea Grover said Friday that portion is expected to be under construction later this month.

It’s anticipated the entire pipeline will be in service by mid-2017.

On June 28 and August 10, FERC authorized Sabal Trail to mobilize its construction contractors and begin pre-construction activities at certain areas along the project in advance of construction, Grover said.

“We are currently performing the FERC authorized pre-construction activities including surveys and gopher tortoise trapping and relocation activities,” Grover said.

FPL uses the fossil fuel to provide 71 percent of the fuel to run its power plants.

The project has been widely opposed by environmental groups and residents of the communities along the route. They have raised concerns that the pipeline will harm the Floridan Aquifer, which supplies water to millions of people in Florida and Georgia, and could damage wetlands, scenic rivers and wildlife habitat and pose a safety threat.

In February FERC issued a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the pipeline.

Regulators required Florida Southeast Connection to purchase wetland mitigation credits.

 

 

 

 

 

Sabal Trail pipeline’s adverse impacts will be mitigated, agency says

The Withlacoochee River is among those the pipeline could affect.
The Withlacoochee River, which originates in Central Florida’s Green Swamp,  is among those the pipeline could affect.

A $3.2 billion natural gas pipeline slated to supply Florida Power & Light’s South Florida plants would have some adverse environmental impacts, but those impacts would be reduced to less-than-significant levels with proposed mitigation measures,  federal regulators said Friday.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s staff  released the final environmental impact statement for the Southeast Market Pipelines Project. If approved, the 685-mile pipeline will originate in Alabama and include the separate but connected  Hillabee Expansion, Sabal Trail and  Florida Southeast Connection projects. It will include six new compressor stations as well.

The project has been widely opposed by environmental groups and residents of the communities on the route. They have raised concerns that the pipeline will harm the Floridan Aquifer which supplies water to millions of people in Florida and Georgia, could damage wetlands, scenic rivers and wildlife habitat and poses a safety hazard to residents.

“The Sunshine State should not be relying on dangerous fossil fuel infrastructure.  No mitigation plan can truly account for the damage to a community if a hazardous incident occurs.  As of 2014 there were over 700 pipeline incidents that had been reported, and many more that have gone undocumented.  When will our agencies learn that our water, wetlands, and communities are not for sale to the highest bidder?”  said Johanna de Graffenreid, Coastal Campaign Organizer at Gulf Restoration Network, New Orleans.

Steven Caley, an Atlanta-based GreenLaw attorney representing Sierra Club and several River Keepers groups,  said of FERC, “They’ve never seen a pipeline they didn’t like.”

Caley questioned how the FERC staff can say the pipeline will be environmentally sound when it has not even seen the mitigation plans.

“They’ve had thousands of comments and have had several experts weigh in from the parties who have gone to the time and expense of giving them analysis on the effect the pipeline could have. They basically have ignored everything. They have not given any credence to anything anyone has said,” Caley said.

“But instead they have relied completely on everything Sabal Trail has given them. FERC has shown it is nothing but a lapdog. They get all their funding from the natural gas industry, so what do you expect?” Caley said.

Juno Beach-based FPL and parent company NextEra Energy officials have said they expect the pipeline to be in service by mid-2017. It will bring gas from a Central Florida hub to FPL’s Martin County plant, then to its plants in Rivera Beach and at Port Everglades.

A 480-mile portion of the pipeline, the Sabal Trail Transmission Project, is a joint venture of a subsidiary of Juno Beach-based FPL’s parent company, NextEra Energy Inc., and Houston-based Spectra Energy.
The southern 126-mile leg is proposed by Florida Southeast Connection, another NextEra subsidiary.

The conclusions and recommendations in the EIS are those of FERC staff, with input from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Army Corps will also present its own recommendations and conclusions.

FERC said the main reasons for its conclusions are:

    • each Applicant would minimize impacts on the natural and human environments during construction and operation of its facilities by implementing the numerous measures described in their respective construction and restoration plans;
    • the majority of the proposed facilities would be collocated within or adjacent to existing rights-of-way;
    • all of the proposed facilities would be constructed and operated in compliance with federal standards, requirements, and thresholds including U.S. Department of Transportation materials requirements and Environmental Protection Agency air emissions standards;
    • a high level of public participation was achieved during the pre-filing and post application review processes and helped inform our analysis;
    • environmental justice populations would not be disproportionately affected by the SMP Project;
    • the horizontal directional drilling crossing method would be utilized for most major and sensitive waterbodies, the majority of other waterbodies would be crossed using dry crossing methods, and the Applicants would be required to obtain applicable permits and provide mitigation for unavoidable impacts on waterbodies and wetlands through coordination with the USACE and state regulatory agencies;
    • we would complete Endangered Species Act consultations with the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service prior to allowing any construction to begin;
    • we would complete the process of complying with section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and implementing the regulations at 36 CFR 800 prior to allowing any construction to begin; and
  • environmental inspection and monitoring programs would ensure compliance with all construction and mitigation measures that become conditions of the FERC authorizations.

The FERC Commissioners will take into consideration staff’s recommendations when they make a decision on the Projects.

Here are links to the EIS documents: