Environmental Groups Seek to Block Gas Pipeline Threatening Environmental Justice Communities in Three States
More than 80% of the Pipeline Will Affect Environmental Justice Communities
Washington, DC -- Today, the Sierra Club, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, and Flint Riverkeeper filed a motion for a stay of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) certificates for the 685-mile Southeast Market Pipelines Project through Alabama, Georgia ,and Florida, which includes the Sabal Trail gas pipeline, and sought to halt construction of the pipeline until the case has been decided.
“On its face, this pipeline should be rejected for the threat it poses not only to our climate, but to the public health of communities it would affect,” said Lena Moffitt, Director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign. “Rather than doubling down on outdated, dirty fuels, we should complete our transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy.”
FERC has acknowledged that 83.7-percent of the pipeline project would affect environmental justice communities. The project includes five compressor stations that would release a significant amount of air pollution into communities. One of those compressor stations would be constructed in Albany, GA in the middle of a predominantly African American neighborhood comprised of two large subdivisions, a mobile home park, schools, recreational facilities, and a 5,000 member Baptist church. FERC approved this project despite strenuous local protests and the objections of Georgia’s members of the Congressional Black Caucus over the discriminatory siting of the project.
“We filed this as an emergency motion hoping the judges will step in and freeze the project until they have a chance to consider it fully,” said Elly Benson, Sierra Club attorney. “Otherwise it is likely that the court won’t get to decide its legality until it is too late.”
The environmental groups asked FERC to consider the effects on these communities and re-route the pipeline, to no avail. FERC contended there was no disparate impact, leaving the groups to seek relief from the federal court of appeals in Washington, DC. The groups are asking the court that all construction be halted until FERC fully considers these impacts and alternatives to the pipeline, and that if the court will not stop the entire pipeline it at least halt construction in the environmental justice neighborhoods in Dougherty County, Georgia.
Gordon Rogers of Flint Riverkeeper said “the actions of FERC have jeopardized property rights throughout southwest Georgia for small and large landowners alike. The federal government is handing over the awesome power of eminent domain to private investors endangering our rivers, wetlands, underground water supplies, and the health of our communities with no demonstrated public benefit for Georgians.”
In addition to the disparate impact on environmental justice communities, the pipeline has significant environmental impacts throughout its route, including the imminent threat of horizontal direction drilling (HDD) along major rivers in Florida, such as the Suwannee and Santa Fe Rivers. Additionally, the pipeline would cut through the Green Swamp, known as the “liquid heart of Florida,” which is a 560,000-acre area that is the headwaters to four major rivers in Florida.
Citizen’s concerns are at an all time high for all waterbodies that face this type of construction according to longtime water, river, and springs protector, Sierra Club organizer Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson. “Pipeline construction threatens to release hazardous materials and drilling mud into the aquifer, polluting our drinking water and threatening sacred Native American sites,” said Malwitz-Jipson. “Potential gas leaks and explosions represent a significant threat to Florida’s historical sites and ecotourism.”
About the Sierra Club The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 2.4 million members and supporters nationwide. In addition to creating opportunities for people of all ages, levels and locations to have meaningful outdoor experiences, the Sierra Club works to safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and litigation. For more information, visit http://www.sierraclub.org.
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