Enviro groups challenge Corps approvals for southeast U.S. pipeline project

The Gulf Restoration Network, Flint Riverkeeper and the Sierra Club on Aug. 17 filed a lawsuit at the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for its issuance of Clean Water Act permits that would allow construction of the 515-mile Florida Southeast Market Pipelines Project, including the Sabal Trail pipeline.

The appealing parties said this project would transport fracked gas across 699 waterbodies, lakes, rivers, and streams and harm 1,958 wetland systems in three states: Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. In addition, they said the project would include five compressor stations contributing significant amounts of air pollution.

The companies pursuing these projects are Sabal Trail Transmission LLC, Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. and Florida Southeast Connection.

GRN, Flint Riverkeeper and the Sierra Club allege that 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. Proponents contend that Sabal Trail will supply gas for future gas plants proposed in Florida, including Duke Energy Florida‘s Citrus Combined-Cycle Plant and Florida Power & Light‘s Martin Energy Center. Yet groups question the purpose and need for this pipeline for gas plants and other potential uses. They point to alternatives like wind and solar.

“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 Corps robbed the public of their right to comment by not making the mitigation plan available for review during the public comment period,” said Jim Hecker, Environmental Enforcement Director at Public Justice, which is representing the groups. “The Corps assumed that mitigation can offset all of the project’s impacts, but that key assumption was never scrutinized during the permit review process.”

​“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,” said Eric Huber, managing attorney for the Sierra Club. “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.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.