Sabal Trail Pipeline – Spectra Energy’s Proposed Gas Transmission
Pipeline Draws Citizen Opposition in 3 States:
Georgia, Florida, Alabama
Spectra Energy Builds on its Reputation for
Cynical Social Responsibility
Spectra Energy (NYSE: SE), the $5 billion pipeline and underground natural gas storage company, is now in a position where its reputation precedes it. When it holds community meetings to sell a proposed natural gas transmission pipeline, communities show up with pitchforks, figuratively speaking.
Despite airy promises about “stakeholder engagement” and commitment to “transparency and accountability,” word about Spectra Energy’s lack of responsiveness and ongoing problems at existing facilities is spreading to communities across states where it hopes to build more pipelines and compressor facilities.1, 2
For example, the Sabal Trail pipeline is a proposed 474-mile natural gas transmission pipeline Spectra Energy hopes to build through Alabama, Georgia and Florida. Current plans call for 7 large compressor stations along the pipeline route (to ‘push’ the gas through).
This is a joint venture between Spectra Energy and NextEra Energy, Inc. The contractor is Florida Power & Light (the key recipient for the nat gas). For details, see the Sabal Trail Transmission website: http://www.sabaltrailtransmission.com/
It did not take “interstate” property owners long to mobilize. Here is a link to their energetic website: http://spectrabusters.org/ and one for their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/#!/spectrabusters
Lessons from New York
Spectra Energy’s track record leaves a negative brand image across many states and in Canada.3
In New York, for example, based on experience with a Spectra Energy pipeline, Clare Donohue, a founding member of the Sane Energy Project, told this writer (emphasis added):
“It’s apparent that Spectra is enlarging and adding to their east coast network from south to north, all aimed at improving their distribution to planned export terminals in Sable Island, Nova Scotia.
“These connected projects are being illegally segmented for separate review by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Community resistance is intense all along the path, from Florida to Georgia to New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.
“FERC should review the Spectra system as a whole….
“FERC and the Department of Energy also need to LISTEN to citizens, who are sending a message loud and clear that these projects are NOT a ‘public convenience.’ In fact they are viewed as being shoved down the throat of community after community, and are of benefit only to the corporation itself.” Website: http://saneenergyproject.org/
Action in Georgia & Florida
Property owners in Georgia and Florida quickly combined their forces to challenge Spectra Energy and FERC. Their objections range from safety to property rights to challenging the necessity for the pipeline.
Sandra Jones, a property owner in Moultrie, Georgia, ran the numbers and concluded in comments to FERC (emphasis added):4
“There is no need for this new pipeline. Sabal Trail is misrepresenting the truth. In a state where there are only 9,031,051 households, why is enough natural gas needed to produce power for over 22,000,000 households needed? These figures only represent the three major [pipe]lines and do not consider the KinderMorgan line or other smaller ones also coming into the state.
“It becomes very obvious this natural gas is intended for exportation and will not benefit any of the citizens in Alabama, Georgia, or Florida if one looks at the business models of Spectra and NextEra Energies.”
Lessons from New Jersey
In New Jersey, Dale Hardman, Founder & President of NO Gas Pipeline, told this writer (emphasis added):
“Spectra is totally untrustworthy!
“We found out from the beginning we must declare as a formal intervenor to sue FERC which regulates ALL interstate pipelines. They trump ALL City and State ordinances. You cannot get an injunction to stop a pipeline. ONLY by suing in federal court can a court overrule FERC.
“FERC was established by the National Gas Act and appointed by the President. We are awaiting D.C. District Court judge to hear oral arguments for our brief.” Website: http://nogaspipeline.org/
PHMSA Official Avoids Pipelines
An official of the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) admits he would avoid buying or building a home near a pipeline.
The PHMSA official, Bill Lowery, attended the annual conference of the Pipeline Safety Trust in New Orleans.5 Based in Houston,Lowery is Manager of Community Assistance & Technical Services for PHMSA’s Southwest Region.
A video of Lowery’s admission – or advice – appears on DeSmogBlog during an interview conducted by Julie Dermansky.6 (See footnote #6 under Links & Resources below.)
“A federal pipeline safety official admitted on camera recently that he made a point of ensuring his home wasn’t in the path of any pipelines before buying it, and that he wouldn’t advise anyone to build in the path of a pipeline.
When asked what he would do if his home were in the path of a transmission pipeline, Lowery replied (emphasis added):
“Here is what I did when I bought my house — I looked on all the maps, I looked for all the well holes. I found there is nothing around me but dry holes and no pipelines. And it’s not because I’m afraid of pipelines, it’s not because I think something will happen. It’s because something could happen. … You’re always better off, if you have a choice….”
He trailed off before finishing his sentence, but added that, “If I was building a house, I wouldn’t build it on a refinery, … I wouldn’t build it on a pipeline, because they’re all industrial facilities. That’s just the reality.” [See blog & video link in footnote #6 under Links & Resources below.]
Two assessments of Mr. Lowery’s comment: First, it is a continuing illustration that the new NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard) are found among energy industry executives and regulators.
Second, Mr. Lowery is correct – “you’re always better off, if you have a choice.” Unfortunately, property owners staring down the barrel of an eminent domain lawsuit or compulsory integration laws in most states, do not have a choice. They do not stand on a level playing field legally or politically.
Eminent domain and compulsory integration laws put landowners in a face-off with the equivalent of a cartel comprised of energy companies and government, because the law allows corporations – backed by government – to control pricing and competition (i.e., “just compensation” and what constitutes “public interest”).
Links & Resources
1 Spectra Energy alleges it practices the following principles on its website under a section titled, Acting with Integrity (emphasis added) – “We conduct our business with integrity, transparency and accountability. We recognize that our stakeholders want to understand how we make decisions, manage our operations and hold ourselves accountable to our commitments and society’s expectations.” Website link: http://www.spectraenergy.com/Sustainability/Economic/Acting-with-Integrity/
2 Several Spectra Energy web pages are devoted to “Stakeholder Engagement” – see this Q&A which cites two “Directors of Stakeholder Engagement,” Susan Waller and Andrea Grover. Those of us with experience in dealing with Spectra Energy and/or owning property near Spectra Energy facilities will tell you that these are laughable platitudes: http://www.spectraenergy.com/Sustainability/Stakeholder-Engagement/A-on-Stakeholder-Engagement/
3 Spectra Energy’s track record – for sourced information refer to the following:
Spectra Energy Watch – http://www.shalepropertyrights.com/blog/?page_id=1887
Spectra Energy Betrayal – http://www.shalepropertyrights.com/blog/?p=1979
See also testimonials from property owners who live with Spectra Energy facilities:
Citizen Regulators 1 – http://www.shalepropertyrights.com/blog/?p=1328
Citizen Regulators 2 – http://www.shalepropertyrights.com/blog/?p=1342
Citizen Regulators 3 — http://www.shalepropertyrights.com/blog/?p=1353
Citizen Regulators 4 — http://www.shalepropertyrights.com/blog/?p=1362
4 Sandra Jones’ submitted comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) are also available on the SpectraBusters website at this link:
They are filed on the FERC eLibrary in Docket/Project PF14-1-000 at this link: http://elibrary.ferc.gov/idmws/file_list.asp?accession_num=20131231-5102
5 Pipeline Safety Trust is a nonprofit public charity formed after a deadly pipeline explosion in Bellingham, Washington in 1999. Its mission is to promote “pipeline safety through education and advocacy, increased access to information, and partnerships with residents, safety advocates, government, and industry, resulting in safer communities and a healthier environment.” Carl Weimer is the Executive Director. Website: http://pstrust.org/
6 “Just the Reality:” Pipeline Safety Official Admits He’d Avoid Buying A Home Near Pipelines Like Keystone XL, byJulie Dermansky 12-3-13, DeSmogBlog
NOTE: This article is cross-posted on the Accountability Central website at this link: http://www.accountability-central.com/nc/single-view-default/article/voices-from-the-shale-sabal-trail-pipeline-spectra-energys-proposed-gas-transmission-pipelin/ Accountability Central is part of the Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc.