Opinion: Sabal Trail…This Fight Ain’t Over

| February 9, 2016

Sabal trail Pipeline proposal

Dr. Michael G. Noll | President, Wiregrass Activists for Clean Energy

This Fight Ain’t Over

In June 2009, our community learned that the Industrial Authority was planning to build a biomass incinerator near Moulton Branch Elementary School. Within a year the project was ready to go with all permits in hand and we were told that this was a “done deal.” However, the following months showed what an engaged citizenry is capable of. After many protests and a successful education campaign, the opposition against this project could no longer be ignored as it included hundreds of citizens as well as local representatives. Thus in June 2011 a formerly done deal became a dead deal.

Fast forward to the current battle over Sabal Trail pipeline and you will find a similar situation, but with surprising twists. Here too a project finds widespread opposition, but from thousands of people along a proposed pipeline route. These citizens are concerned about their safety from pipeline hazards, their property rights and property values, and the dangers pipelines pose to groundwater aquifers. Talk to the people in Flint, Michigan, and you will know how important clean drinking water is. Visit the website of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and you will find extensive data on pipeline accidents throughout the country. Educate yourself on the Aliso Canyon natural gas leak in California, which seems unstoppable since October 2014 and has leaked 80,000 metric tons of natural gas since then, and you know why the state’s governor declared a state of emergency.

The unexpected turns in the ongoing Sabal Trail pipeline battle are that the EPA, which once opposed the pipeline, now supports it, and that the Lowndes County Commission, which once passed a resolution against the pipeline, now has sold out to a Texas-based energy firm with connections to a Florida governor who plans to profit from natural gas exports to Asia. Apparently a one-time lump sum of $54,300 is all it took to convince a majority of county commissioners that this is a good deal. How so? Didn’t their own resolution state that it be “resolved that the Lowndes County Board of Commissioners opposes the construction of the Sabal Trail pipeline in any portion of Lowndes County”, that the “Lowndes County Commission has concerns with fundamental property rights and does not believe that citizens with small tracts should be forced to lose the use of large portions of their property for the Sabal Trail pipeline”, and that the “Lowndes County Commission does not see any long term benefit to the citizens of Lowndes County?”

Add to this that the county attorney mistakenly believes that Sabal Trail has the right of eminent domain (it does not, unless the project is considered to be in the public interest) and that commissioners are now trying to wash their hands by hiding behind FERC, and you have to ask yourself what happened to the backbones of those who were elected to represent their tax-paying constituency. First Lowndes County citizens are bullied by Sabal Trail pipeline representatives to sign easement agreements, and then the same citizens are betrayed by their own government.
Make no mistake. Permits are outstanding (e.g. the air permit for the compressor station near Albany), landowners are fighting and willing to take this to court, and we will do what we can to support them, while holding our elected representatives accountable. This fight ain’t over.

Dr. Michael G. Noll, President
Wiregrass Activists for Clean Energy

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