A judge in Leesburg, GA is considering Sabal Trail’s demand for Georgia eminent domain and a Mitchell County landowner family’s countersuit for criminal trespass. LCDP Chair Tom Hochschild filed the LCDC resolution against the Sabal Trail fracked methane pipeline as an Amicus curiae, including GA State Rep. Dexter Sharper’s letter against the pipeline (PDF). Other Amicus briefs were filed by SpectraBusters, WWALS Watershed Coalition, and Students Against Violating the Environment. There’s no need for this destructive and hazardous pipeline that threatens our water, or lands, our schools, and our economy.
IN THE SUPERIOR COURT OF LEE COUNTY
STATE OF GEORGIA
SABAL TRAIL TRANSMISSION, LLC,
JAMES E. BELL, II and ROBERT A. BELL,
Civil Action No.
AMICUS CURIAE OF LOWNDES COUNTY DEMOCRATIC PARTY
IN SUPPORT OF DEFENDANTS THE BELLS
COMES NOW LOWNDES COUNTY DEMOCRATIC PARTY (LCDP), as friends of the court and concerned citizens in the above-entitled action in support of the Defendants and file this their brief with the court in the above referenced case and states as follows and provides in support thereof the following:
Statement of Interest, Argument, and Conclusion of Amicus Curiae.
LCDP statement opposing Sabal Trail affixed hereto as Exhibit A.
LCDP motion of intervention against Sabal Trail affixed hereto as Exhibit B.
Georgia State Representative Dexter Sharper (District 177) to FERC affixed as Exhibit C.
STATEMENT OF INTEREST OF AMICUS CURIAE
The Lowndes County Democratic Party (LCDP) is an intervenor with FERC against the same pipeline Sabal Trail proposes to continue southeastward from the Bell’s property in Mitchell County, drilling under the Withlacoochee River into Lowndes County, crossing through wetlands, farms, and forests, and near a school, all above the same Floridan Aquifer as in Mitchell County. The Lowndes County Democratic Committee (LCDC), which is the LCDP ruling body, voted March 1, 2014 to oppose the Sabal Trail pipeline, announced that decision in the press release attached hereto as Exhibit A, and the LCDP Chair at the time read that statement to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) at its Scoping Meeting in Valdosta, Lowndes County, Georgia on March 4, 2014. LCDP filed that LCDP statement again plus supporting information with FERC 12 December 2014 in a motion to intervene against Sabal Trail in FERC Docket CP15-17, attached hereto as Exhibit B.
In addition, Dexter Sharper, who represents Valdosta and parts of Lowndes County in the Georgia House of Representatives, District 177, filed a letter with FERC January 7, 2015 citing that LCDC decision and other reasons he opposes the Sabal Trail pipeline, which are summarized in the ARGUMENT below. Rep. Sharper’s letter is attached hereto as Exhibit C.
Any decision of the court in Leesburg about the subject property in Mitchell County will affect Lowndes County, because it will either promote or impede the progress of the Sabal Trail pipeline, which Sabal Trail proposes to run through Lowndes County. LCDP is opposed to that pipeline for the reasons of environmental, property rights, and safety detailed in Exhibit A.
In addition, as Rep. Sharper detailed in the letter in Exhibit C:
No need has been demonstrated for the pipeline.
Yet Lowndes County landowners have long been receiving letters from Sabal Trail and its attorneys threatening Georgia eminent domain despite assertions to the contrary by Sabal Trail in Lowndes County’s newspaper of record, the Valdosta Daily Times.
Three of Sabal Trail’s alternate routes would go down I-75 through Valdosta, near Valdosta Mall, and past three schools, which is an unacceptable hazard.
Sabal Trail’s pipeline on any route through Lowndes County would adversely affect the local economy.
All three alternative routes would drill under the Withlacoochee River, risking sinkholes, collapse, and leaks into the Floridan Aquifer, possibly affecting Valdosta’s water wells, or those of Lowndes County citizens.
Sabal Trail’s preferred route would drill under the Withlacoochee River, with all the same concerns as its alternative routes, since water flows in different directions underground than aboveground.
Crossing the Withlacoochee River anywhere is an unacceptable risk, as Sabal Trail already acknowledged by moving its pipeline route off of the Withlacoochee River in Hamilton County, Florida, due to similar fragile karst limeston geology there.
Sabal Trail’s hundred-foot right of way would damage forestry and agriculture, which are major components of the local economy.
Easements for Sabal Trail’s pipeline would limit the use of their own property by local citizens and reduce their property values.
Local emergency responders and health care personnel and local and state taxpayers would have to pay for any leaks, sinkholes, contamination, or explosions by Sabal Trail, since Spectra Energy’s annual SEC Form 10-K filiings say it does not have adequate insurance and Sabal Trail is an LLC that does not even have the assets of Spectra Energy.
Spectra Energy’s safety record is a matter of serious concern.
Southern Natural Gas, owner of the natural gas pipeline presently in Lowndes County, opposes Sabal Trail’s pipeline as unsafe, including in a motion to intervene with FERC.
The price of solar panels continues to drop, and Valdosta already has 1.25 megawatts of solar power, which is a much safer and less environmentally damaging method of power production.
The Lowndes County Commission passed a resolution opposing the Sabal Trail pipeline anywhere in Lowndes County or the State of Georgia, and filed it with FERC.
The Valdosta City Council passed a resolution opposing the Sabal Trail pipeline anywhere in Valdosta, Lowndes County, or the State of Georgia, and filed it with FERC.
Finally, as the LCDP statement says, “Georgia Democrats believe we have a moral obligation to leave our children and grandchildren with an earth as safe, beautiful, and majestic as the one bequeathed to us by our parents and grandparents.”
For the reasons stated above, Amicus respectfully asks the court to hold that Sabal Trail can not use Georgia eminent domain and that entry by Sabal Trail onto any landowner’s property without permission is trespass.
DATED: April 11, 2015
Lowndes County Democratic Party
PO Box 4198
Valdosta, GA 31604
Copies sent to:
Attorney for the Bells, Jonathan P. Waters,
2476 Vinville Ave, Macon, Georgia 31204
Attorney for Sabal Trail: Matthew J. Calvert,
Hunton & Williams LLP, Suite 4100,600 Peachtree Street. N.E., Atlanta, Georgia 30308-2216
Filed with FERC March 4, 2014 as Accession Number 20140304-5059, “Comment of Lowndes County Democratic Committee in Docket(s)/Project(s) PF14-1-000 Submission Date: 3/4/2014.”
Lowndes County Democratic Committee Opposes Sabal Trail Methane Pipeline
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Valdosta, March 3, 2014 –The Lowndes County Democratic Committee
voted Saturday to oppose the Sabal Trail Methane Pipeline slated
to run through Lowndes County.
Georgia Democrats believe we have a moral obligation to leave our
children and grandchildren with an earth as safe, beautiful, and
majestic as the one bequeathed to us by our parents and grandparents.
The Sabal Trail Pipeline is proposed to move Liquid Natural Gas
(LNG) from fracking sites to Florida. Fracking is a known polluting
technique, leaving behind undrinkable water and unusable earth.
Florida is the Sunshine State and could generate any needed electricity
from less expensive and more environmentally friendly renewable
sources of solar and wind.
Georgia Democrats believe in and uphold every citizen’s right to
equal and impartial justice under the law.
The taking of privately owned property by a private company is a
property rights issue. Putting corporations above citizens is not
equal, nor is it impartial. Lowndes County property owners have a
right to say who can and cannot use their property and a LNG pipeline
that benefits no Georgians is a property rights violation.
Existing pipelines have a history of failures from poor monitoring
and maintenance which have resulted in explosions, fires and deaths.
The safety of Lowndes County citizens should be a top priority of
our local and state governments.
The Committee urges citizens to attend the Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission meeting on Tuesday, March 4th at 6:00pm at the Holiday
Inn at 1805 West Hill Avenue Valdosta, GA 31601 and express their
opposition to this pipeline.
LCDP: Winning the Future in South Georgia
The Lowndes County Democratic Party promotes development of Party
organization and activities, seeks and encourages qualified candidates
for public office, supports Democratic nominees, performs such
election functions as are required by law, maintains appropriate
records, promotes and adds logistical support to the State Affirmative
Action program, and raises funds for the above purposes.
Chair – LCDP
Treasurer – LCDP
Filed with FERC in LCDP’s Motion to Intervene of 12 December 2014, Accession Number 20141212-5164, “Motion to Intervene of Thomas Hochschild under CP15-17. ”
My name is Thomas R. Hochschild and I am submitting this motion to intervene on Sabal Trail Transmission, LLC’s proposed pipeline (Docket CP 15-17-000) on behalf of the Lowndes County Democratic Party (LCDP) as its Chairman.
On March 1, 2014 the Lowndes County Democratic Committee voted to oppose the Sabal Trail Transmission LLC’s proposed pipeline. We proclaim our opposition for the following reasons:
Georgia Democrats believe in and uphold every citizen’s right to equal and impartial justice under the law. The taking of privately owned property by a private company is a property rights issue. Putting the interests of corporations above citizens is not equal, nor is it impartial. Lowndes County property owners have a right to say who can and cannot use their property, and a LNG pipeline with little benefit to Georgians is a property rights violation. Further, numerous Lowndes County residents have been mistreated by Sabal Trail in the form of misinformation, threatening letters, and rude telephone correspondence.
Existing pipelines have a history of failures from poor monitoring and maintenance which have resulted in explosions, fires and deaths (see Appendix). The safety of United States citizens must be a top priority of our local, state, and federal governments.
The Sabal Trail Pipeline is proposed to transport Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) from fracking sites to Florida. Fracking is a known polluting technique, leaving behind undrinkable water and unusable earth. Our heavy reliance on fracking and fossil fuels represents a danger to our collective health, our economy, and our national security. The United States should refocus its energy needs on environmentally friendly renewable sources such as solar and wind.
Thank you for your consideration.
Thomas R. Hochschild, Chair
Lowndes County Democratic Party
P.O. Box 4198
Valdosta, GA 31604
6/10/1999. An Olympic gasoline pipeline ruptured near Bellingham, Washington, resulting in three deaths. 277,000 gallons of gasoline spilled to Whatcom Creek. The fire burned for five days.
8/20/2000. A 30-inch El Paso Energy natural gas pipeline exploded, killing five adults and five children and leaving two other people in critical condition in southeast New Mexico.
5/24/2004. A leak caused by wear unleashed thousands of gallons of gasoline that fueled the BP / Olympic pipeline fire and explosion near the Westfield Shoppingtown Southcenter in Renton, Washington. The blaze sent three firefighters to the hospital, and a mile-square area was cordoned off.
9/9/2010. A PG&E 30-inch natural gas line exploded in San Bruno, California, killing eight.
7/25/2010. Crude oil pipeline ruptures near Marshall, Michigan, spilled over 840,000 gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River.
12/12/12. A 20-inch transmission line owned by NiSource Inc., parent of Columbia Gas, exploded, leveling four houses near Kanawha County, West Virginia.
3/29/2013. An ExxonMobil pipeline carrying Canadian Wabasca heavy crude from the Athabasca oil sands ruptured in Mayflower, Arkansas, about twenty-five miles northwest of Little Rock. A reported 5,000−7,000 barrels of crude were released. Twenty-two homes were evacuated.
8/20/2013. An Enable Midstream Partners gas pipeline explosion occurred near Kiowa, Oklahoma.
10/8/2013. A Northern Natural gas pipeline occurred near Rosston, Oklahoma.
1/25/2014. A Trans Canada pipeline about fifteen miles south of Winnipeg ruptured and exploded.
2/13/2104. In Knifely, Kentucky, a Columbia Gulf gas pipeline exploded, flattening homes, burning barns, and causing two casualties.
2/11/2014. A Hiland gas pipeline exploded about six miles south of Tioga, North Dakota.
2/14/2014. A Northern Natural Gas Company pipeline erupted near Fremont, Nebraska.
5/26/2014. A Viking gas pipeline exploded near Warren, Minnesota.
Filed 7 January 2015 with FERC as Accession Number: 20150107-5100, “Comment of Dexter Sharper, Georgia State Representative, District 177, under CP15-17.”
Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street NE, Room 1A
Washington, DC 20426Re: Sabal Trail Transmission, LLC, Docket No. CP15-17Dear Ms. Bose,I am writing as the Georgia State House Representative for District 177 on behalf of my constituents to express my concerns regarding Sabal Trail Transmission’s (SST) proposed natural gas pipeline through my district in south Georgia. More specifically I have the following concerns:
- No need has been demonstrated. The profit for a pipeline company and a utility through piping gas indicated in Sabal Trail’s 21 November 2014 formal FERC filing is not a sufficient need for eminent domain.
- Sabal Trail has for a year now been sending landowners letters threatening Georgia eminent domain even though Georgia law does not authorize eminent domain for a pipeline that does not serve Georgia. Yet Sabal Trail recently told our local newspaper of record, the Valdosta Daily Times (“Sabal Trail: Eminent domain accusation ‘hard to believe’” by Joe Adgie in the Valdosta Times today, 19 November 2014,) that any threats of eminent domain were “hard to believe”. Multiple constituents have shown me example letters from Sabal Trail’s Atlanta law firm threatening eminent domain. Either Sabal Trail does not know what its attorneys are doing, or it thinks I and my constituents do not know. Either way, Sabal Trail’s credibilty is severely damaged.http://www.valdostadailytimes.com/news/local_news/sabal-trail-eminent-domain-accusation-hard-to-believe/article_4a9f2c68-6fa9-11e4-acf3-0b963c798765.htmlhttp://www.l-a-k-e.org/blog/2014/11/sabal-trail-newspaper-assertions-contradicted-by-spectra-corporate-documents-and-ferc-filings-john-s-quarterman-to-fer c.html
- Three of Sabal Trail’s alternative routes would run down Interstate 75 through my district, next to Lowndes High School, less than half a mile from Valdosta Mall, and less than a mile from Westside Elementary School, all in my district. See Sabal Trail’s 15 September 2014 filing.This is an unacceptable hazard, especially considering the 2009 Florida Gas Transmission pipeline incident in which a much smaller 18-inch pipeline blew up between I-95 and the Florida Turnpike and threw a 104-foot pipe segment across the Turnpike, which could have hit a nearby high school. See National Transportation Safety Board Pipeline Accident Brief for Accident No. DCA09FP007.http://spectrabusters.org/2014/02/11/methane-pipeline-blew-up-onto-florida-turnpike-next-to-high-school/
- Valdosta and Lowndes County pride ourselves on retaining and attracting businesses and industry, and no business wants to be located next to a hazardous pipeline, so Sabal Trail would adversely affect the local economy. Sabal Trail has promised economic benefits from hotel stays and restaurant meals, but these would be slight and temporary as the pipeline was built, leaving the economic damage and hazards.
- Those three alternative routes would drill under the Withlacoochee River, risking sinkhole collapse and further contamination of our drinking water, not far from where that River already leaks into the Floridan Aquifer, causing the City of Valdosta to sink its wells 400 feet deep. See “Sustainability of Ground-water Resources”, by William M. Alley, Thomas E. Reilly, and O. Lehn Franke, 1 January 1999, United States Geological Survey, especially Box E on Page 63.
- Sabal Trail’s preferred route would cross the Withlacoochee River just south of US 84 at the Brooks-Lowndes County border, with all the same concerns and risks of contamination, given that water underground does not flow in the same direction as aboveground.
- Crossing the Withlacoochee River anywhere is an inappropriate risk, given the fragile karst limestone geology containing our Floridan aquifer. See the 21-page “Karst Features and Hydrogeology of the Proposed Sabal Trail Natural Gas Transmission Pipeline Withlacoochee River Crossing ” Hamilton County, Florida”, by professional geologist David Brown, August 2014, already filed with FERC along with Resolution No. 14-10 7 of 19 August 2014 by the Board of County Commissioners of Hamilton County, Florida.Hamilton County filed a motion to intervene 18 December 2014.All Hamilton County’s concerns about the Withlacoochee River in Florida apply equally to the same Withlacoochee River in Lowndes County, Georgia. See also the 15 November 2014 FERC filing of opposition from WWALS Watershed Coalition Inc., which includes a copy of the Georgia Water Coalition Dirty Dozen 2014 Item Number 9, opposing the Sabal Trail pipeline anywhere in Georgia, plus corrosion issues in our acidic soil and water, and the WWALS motion to intervene of 16 December 2014, which adds further material.http://www.wwals.net/2014/11/17/dirty-dozen-sinkhole-aquifer-drinking-water-corrosion-wwals-ferc-sabal-trail/
- Much of the land on Sabal Trail’s preferred route is used for forestry and agriculture, which would be damaged by cutting down all trees on the proposed hundred-foot right of way, and risked by the inadequate three-foot top cover. Agriculture is a major industry in this county.
- Many landowners in Lowndes County would have to give up easements for Sabal Trail’s pipeline on any of those routes. Such easements would limit their use of their property and reduce their property values, while introducing hazards to their safety and drinking water, yet would leave landowners paying taxes on damaged property.
- According to the annual SEC Form 10-K filings by Spectra Energy, co-owner of Sabal Trail, Spectra does not have adequate insurance coverage for major incidents such as leaks or explosions, and Sabal Trail itself has no visible assets beyond the pipeline contract. This would leave local and state taxpayers to pay for sending law enforcement, fire department, ambulances, hospitalization, cleanups, and other costs of any such incidents.
- Representatives of Sabal Trail have repeatedly told us they are a safe company, yet their safety record as recorded by the Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Agency, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Transportation Safety Board, among others, shows a pattern of lack of inspection of pipelines for corrosion or leaks, leading to repeated leaks and explosions with major property damage, injuries, and even loss of life.
- Even another natural gas pipeline company, Southern Natural Gas, filed with FERC 13 November 2014 noting multiple points on which Sabal Trail’s pipeline plan is unsafe.http://spectrabusters.org/2014/11/14/needless-risk-through-unnecessary-crossings-sonat-to-ferc-about-sabal-trail/Southern Natural Gas has filed a motion to intervene 16 December 2014, including similar comments.
- The price of solar photovoltaic panels continues to drop and has already made solar energy more cost-effective than natural gas, without environmentally damaging rights of way or hazardous pipelines, witness the 1.25 megawatts of solar power at Valdosta’s Mud Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. Valdosta recently was named “Smart Energy Municipality of the Year” for that solar installation among other reasons.
- The Lowndes County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution 9 December 2014 opposing the Sabal Trail pipeline anywhere in Lowndes County, and recommending it not be routed anywhere in the state of Georgia. That Commission had already filed the text of the resolution with FERC 18 November 2014.http://spectrabusters.org/2014/11/24/opposes-sabal-trail-pipeline-in-any-portion-of-lowndes-county-lowndes-county-commission/
- The Valdosta City Council passed a resolution 11 December 2014 opposing the Sabal Trail pipeline anywhere in its city, county, or state, and filed it with FERC 17 December 2014, supporting the Lowndes County Commission’s resolution and adding a clause of concern about the Floridan Aquifer, which is the source of almost all our drinking water:“WHEREAS, the City of Valdosta has concerns regarding any potential effect the proposed pipeline or its construction might have on the Floridan aquifer, the primary source of the drinking water supply for our City, County and the south Georgia area; and”http://www.l-a-k-e.org/blog/2014/12/valdosta-passes-resolution-against-sabal-trail-pipeline-not-in-this-city-this-county-or-this-state-vcc-2014-12-11.html
- As the Lowndes County Democratic Party (LCDP) said in its policy statement filed with FERC 4 March 2014, and also filed in its motion to intervene of 12 December 2014:“Georgia Democrats believe we have a moral obligation to leave our children and grandchildren with an earth as safe, beautiful, and majestic as the one bequeathed to us by our parents and grandparents.”For all these reasons, on behalf of my constituents and the citizens of Lowndes County and the state of Georgia, I oppose the Sabal Trail pipeline anywhere in the County of Lowndes or the State of Georgia.I urge that FERC reject any permit for the Sabal Trail pipeline, or at the very least move it entirely out of the State of Georgia.I would like to thank you for your consideration and would appreciate receiving a written response to the concerns I have raised.Sincerely,Dexter SharperState House Representative
411-B Coverdell Legislative Office Bldg.
Atlanta, GA 30334
Civil Action No. 14-CV-208RS, Amicus Curiae Lowndes County Democratic Party, page