Lowndes County and Valdosta City Pass Resolutions against Sabal Trail Pipeline

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By: Winnie Wright
December 11, 2014

After months of opposition from community members the Lowndes County Commission decided on Tuesday to pass a formal resolution against the Sabal Trail pipeline.

"The decison to move forward with the resolution had everything to do with property rights and the citizens here in Lowndes County," said Chairman Bill Slaughter of Lowndes County Commission.

And on Thursday the Valdosta City Council will do the same thing.

"The pipeline does not affect us here in Valdosta except by a couple of things: one is, our Florida Aquifer, where our water comes from. And we are concerned that it could affect that at some point. the other thing is, I am concerned about the fact that the pipeline is being run so close to an elementary school. As in Clyattville," said Mayor John Gayle, City of Valdosta.

Protestors of the pipeline say it's a step in the right direction.

"It's now been 18 months since everyone first heard about this pipeline and it's really good to see our local governments coming around to realizing how bad this would be for our waters," said John Quarterman, President of WWALS.

The Chairman and Mayor say they were pressed to pass resolutions by the December 21 deadline put in place by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

These resolutions make the City and County "intervenors," giving them exclusive rights when it comes to appealing FERC's decision.

In a written statement, Sabal Trail says they, "Have and will continue to work with each community to ensure they are kept apprised of the project, understand the process and know the benefits."

According to Quarter-Man the next step is to have state representatives write similar resolutions opposing the pipe-line which will be discussed during the January term.

By: Winnie Wright
December 2,2014

Lowndes County, GA - Ever since the Sabal Trail first came to Lowndes County, residents have heard the phrase 'Eminent Domain' when it comes to their property.

Last week we spoke with attorneys for Larry Rodgers, who owns a horse farm on the proposed pipeline. They told us Rodgers received a letter from attorneys for Sabal Trail saying surveys would be done on his property, even without his permission. They cited eminent domain."

In that letter: "Natural gas pipeline companies such as Sabal Trail are expressly granted eminent domain rights under Georgia law. Georgia courts recognize that an entity vested with eminent domain authority has the right to enter private property to survey and inspect the property."

Rodgers' attorney wrote a counter letter arguing that unless Sabal Trail provides gas in the State of Georgia, they cannot exercise Eminent Domain rights in Georgia. They also argued that Georgia law requires "special procedures" from pipeline companies. One of those "Special Procedures" being that the pipeline company would have to obtain a Certificate of Public Good and Necessity. Many are now wondering, with Sabal Trail installing two natural gas 'taps' for Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia, or MGAG, in Colquitt and Dougherty counties this week, will they be able to cite Eminent Domain and force local land owners to hand over their property?

"Eminent Domain is something that requires a certificate from FERC, and right now we have only submitted our application. This is simply a step for us to do that survey work and we're taking this one step at a time", says Andrea Grover, Director of Stakeholder Outreach for Spectra Energy.

MGAG says it has accepted Sabal Trail's offer for two taps on their pipeline when it's built, but say they are a long way away from providing that gas to residents of South Georgia.

"Taps do not provide gas in to the state. That would require a meter station in the future, so I'm not an attorney, not involved in Eminent Domain, don't believe the side taps should have any impact at all on that issue", says Michael Frey, Chief Operating Officer for MGAG.

However, one local official says he knew nothing about the taps or the need.

"There's been no discussion about any of the ramifications of whether we'd want it, or whether we wouldn't want it", said Moultrie Mayor, Bill McIntosh.

Residents with concerns about the pipeline are encouraged to attend tonight's Moultrie City Council meeting in City Hall at six.

Updated By: Winnie Wright
November 25, 2014

Lowndes County, GA - It's been over a year since Spectra Energy first announced their plans to build a natural gas pipeline through South Georgia and North Florida.

Recently, The Georgia Water Coalition put the Sabal Trail Pipeline on their Dirty Dozen Report for 2014.

Chris Manganiello, with the Coalition said this about their decision to put Sabal Trail on the list:

"We know existing pipelines have contributed to soil and water contamination in Georgia, so there is a reasonable concern that a future pipeline could also fail, and thus harm folks dependent on surface and groundwater for drinking in Georgia and Florida."
What could cause the pipeline to 'fail'? Sinkholes, which scientists say are becoming more common.

Sinkholes like the one in North Valdosta that opened suddenly. Local scientists say if a similar sinkhole were to open underneath a pipeline, the results could be catastrophic.

"All of our drinking water comes from the aquifer under our feet. This pipeline is hazardous to that aquifer. It could leak some of these PCBs. It could leak in to it. It could cause a sink hole which could leak into the aquifer", says John Quarterman, President of WWALS Watershed Coalition who suggested Sabal Trail be included in the report.

The report also sites the safety concerns, including deadly explosions. One local scientist says on average, America experiences 30 pipeline accidents per year.

"If the ground collapses, everything that's on top of it, including a pipeline that may be in the ground three or four feet, would also have a collapse. A rupture of some sort developing", says Dr. Michael Noll, a Geographer and President of Wiregrass Activists for Clean Energy.

Spectra Energy, owner of Sabal Trail Pipeline, maintains their pipelines are safe.

"We were disappointed to see that reference on this list and certainly disagree with the generalized statement. This is an interstate pipeline project that will receive the scrutiny of federal and state agencies. These agencies only approve projects which can be responsibly constructed and operated while protecting the interests of both the human and environmental resources", says Andrea Grover, Director of Stakeholder Outreach for Spectra Energy.

Some local scientists say the risks outweigh the benefits.

"We don't really know what the reason for it is, but to risk something that unique, like a globally significant aquifer for one company's speculation on the price of fossil fuels is crazy", says Don Thieme, a local Geoscientist.

Several local landowners say they are prepared to fight back if the environmental risks don't derail the pipeline.

Winnie Wright
October 21, 2014

Valdosta, GA - It's been one year since Sabal Trail announced its plans to build a natural gas pipeline that would go through South Georgia and parts of Florida.

Tuesday, protestors began revamping their efforts to keep that pipeline out of their communities.

Time may have passed, but opinions haven't changed much here in Valdosta, where people..who are against the pipeline say there are countless reasons why it doesn't belong in their backyards.

"There's a moral obligation to leave the world as beautiful and majestic as we found it, and the pipeline; it does not do that", says Gretchen Quarterman, President of the Lowndes County Democratic Party.

"The pipeline will split our farm in half, and in reality it could kill us and our family because the pipeline will be about 700-feet behind our house", says Tom Lovett, an Impacted Landowner.

It's been one year since WCTV first told you about Sabal Trail Transmission's plan to build a natural gas pipeline through South Georgia and North Florida. And ten months since the company held informational meetings for the public. Last Decemember, Sabal Trail said it would address the concerns of local residents.

"I understand why the landowners are upset. I mean I really do. I see that they don't have answers right now, but it just takes time", said Susan Waller, VP of Stakeholder Outreach for Sabal Trail Transmissions.

Protestors say Sabal Trail has had plenty of time, but a pipeline still isn't a safe option for the area, one reason: active karst topography, or sinkholes.

"Scientifically speaking, constructing a pipeline through an area that has active karst topogrophy is insane. From the point of view of an individual who has an interest in sustainability, still betting on fossil fuels, as much as the profits may be handy for some, is not forward looking, we have better options, we have safer options, we have cleaner options", says Dr. Michael Noll, a Geographer and President of Wiregrass Activists for Clean Energy.

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