Environmentalists challenge FERC's Sabal Trail pipeline approval
- Three environmental groups including the Sierra Club have filed a lawsuit challenging federal regulators' decision to approve the $3.2 billion Sabal Trail pipeline, arguing they failed to adequately assess climate impacts and alternate routes that would have less of an disruption.
- The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the pipeline in February. Spectra Energy Partners, NextEra Energy and Duke Energy are aiming to have the system in operation by May 2017.
- The project will move about 1.1 billion cubic feet of gas through Alabama and Georgia to power plants in Florida. Along the way, opponents say it will cross almost 700 bodies of water.
Building pipelines have proven an arduous task, almost more so than transmission construction as evidenced by the strong opposition in similar projects such as the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Now environmental groups are taking on the Sabal Trail pipeline project a month after it cleared approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin construction.
Last week Sierra Club, Flint Riverkeeper and Chattahoochee Riverkeeper filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, seeking to block construction of the Southeast Market Pipeline project -- almost 700 miles of gas transmission line that will include the 515-mile Sabal Trail line.
Sierra Club representative Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson said the Sabal Trail portion is a serious threat to rivers, springs and drinking water, while increasing Florida's reliance on fracked natural gas and potentially increasing emissions.
The groups claim FERC failed to closely analyze the climate impacts of the project, ad also failed to adequately analyze alternate routes that would have less impacts on the environment and communities of color. They say the line will move gas across 699 bodies of water, harm 1,958 wetland systems and extend across an area that provides drinking water to approximately 10 million people.
After greenlighting the project in August, the Army Corps of Engineers added some caveats including requiring developers to purchase credits offsetting wetlands impacts.
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