Make pipeline companies answer questions, motivate implementation of safety standards, announce FERC Scoping meetings, and enforce reasonable local zoning restrictions: these are things local governments can do, and NTSB and FERC say they should do most of them. Gilchrist County Commission in Trenton, Florida has done most of them, and plans to continue doing more. The Lowndes County Commission and the Valdosta City Council still can, too, plus all the other county and city governments along the proposed pipeline path, and their statewide county and city government associations. Will our local elected officials represent we the people?
There were Real questions at the Gilchrist County Commission meeting in Trenton, Florida Monday. Two hours of first questions from a citizens committee with Spectra’s reps expected to answer right there in front of everybody, then questions from locals and people from many counties around, including attorneys representing landowners and other county commissions cross-examining Spectra on the spot. The Chairman of the Gilchrist County Commission said there was a general opinion among the populace that they were asking specific questions and getting only general answers. Congratulations, Chairman, Commission, staff, Committee, and everyone who asked questions for showing the world how it’s done, and for exposing Spectra’s evasions to public scrutiny.
This is in sharp contrast to four questions asked by Lowndes County Commissioners and the cut-and-paste public relations answers by Spectra Energy to citizen questions forwarded by that Commission. Plus the Valdosta City Council has done nothing at all to question the pipeline company. All the local governments along the pipeline path could do what Gilchrist County just did.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) 18 May 2001 RESPONSE TO PETITION FOR RECONSIDERATION about Spectra’s Durham Woods pipeline fireball that burnt dozens, evacuated thousands, made hundreds homeless, and literally scared one woman to death, concludes with this paragraph:
- The public will not benefit from the safety improvement recommendations developed in RSPA’s public safety risk study without guidance containing implementation procedures and without motivation from associations representing local governments.
The Lowndes County Commission has close relations with the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG). The Valdosta City Council similarly has close relations with the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA). Will Valdosta and Lowndes County ask GMA and ACCG to motivate safety standards for the Sabal Trail pipeline?
FERC’s 18 February 2014 NOTICE OF INTENT TO PREPARE AN ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT FOR THE PLANNED SOUTHEAST MARKET PIPELINES PROJECT, REQUEST FOR COMMENTS ON ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES, AND NOTICE OF PUBLIC SCOPING MEETINGS says:
State and local government representatives should notify their constituents about this process and encourage them to comment on their areas of concern.
The FERC Scoping Meetings start March 3rd in Albany, March 4th in Valdosta, and March 5th in Moultrie. Will our local governments inform their constituents? Will any of our local elected officials or local governments testify at these meetings?
Some local governments have been using FERC as an excuse for not getting involved. Well, FERC explicitly says they should get involved. And every one of the county commissions along the pipeline path are on the stakeholder lists Sabal Trail filed with FERC, so every one of them got that notice. Will they inform their constituents?
Yes, I know FERC insists federal law supersedes state or local law. But even the precedent FERC cites says local regulations apply as long as they’re not unreasonable. And the Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently ruled that local zoning restrictions do indeed apply to pipelines. Plus a judge in Nebraska just ruled that only the state Public Service Commission can approve a pipeline.
How does any or all of that apply to Georgia, Florida, or Alabama? How about all of the affected county commissions and city councils try to find out, assisted by Association of County Commissions of Alabama (ACCA), Alabama League of Municipalities Florida Association of Counties, Florida League of Cities, Florida City and County Management Association (FCCMA), Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG), and Georgia Municipal Association (GMA)?
Will our elected officials represent we the people?