Wednesday, May 14, 2008

MOTION TO INTERVENE on the Floridian Natural Gas Storage LLC in Martin County

By Panagioti Tsolkas and The Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition

Re: Docket No. CP08-13-000
Pre-File No. PF07-03-000

Pursuant to Rule 214 of the Commission´s Rules of Practice and Procedures (18 CFR 385.214(b)(3) the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition (¨PBCEC¨), represented by Peter ´Panagioti´ Tsolkas, also representing himself, pro se, moves that he and the group he represents be granted a timely intervention as a party in the above-mentioned proceeding.

PBCEC and Mr. Tsolkas reserve the right to retain counsel if needed.

PBCEC is a group of active participants located in south Florida, spanning across Palm Beach, Martin Counties, and surrounding areas. The group is made of individuals who are ratepaying utility consumers; they meet regularly to address issues of public interest and the environment. The groups sees the long term and cumulative impacts of further dependence on fossil fuel-based energy source as dangerous, both economically and environmentally.

The PBCEC visits, recreates and enjoys public and private land areas that will be impacted, directly and indirectly, through the permitting of the proposed infrastructure project, including but not limited to the DuPuis Wildlife Environmental Area, the J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area, Hungryland Wildlife Management Area, Allapattah Flats Wildlife Management Area, the St. Lucie Canal, the L-8 canal, the L-65 canal, Lake Okeechobee, the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge; also, the Everglades National Park, the Biscayne National Park, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and every other Federally-protected natural and wild area in the United States which will be effected by fossil fuel infrastructure, its direct impacts and the secondary impacts of anthropogenic climate change contributed to substantially from greenhouse gases, such as CO2, now recognized as a pollutant by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). For these reason, and others, PBCEC, and Panagioti Tsolkas are entitled to participate through intervention.

The PBCEC has been opposing the Floridian Natural Gas Storage Company, LLC (¨FGS¨ or ¨Applicant¨) liquid natural gas (LNG) proposal in Indiantown since the initiation of NEPA pre-filing process. The PBCEC also challenged a previous LNG proposal, the Seafarer, in Palm Beach County off the coast of Palm Beach island, which was defeated by public interest concerns—economic, safety, and ecological—of U.S. and Bahamian residents (the main terminal was slated for the Bahamas).

PBCEC feels the global gas supply is on a parallel course with the peak oil crisis, and this storage facility is only a short term solution, with many risks associated. Of urgent concern is also the reality that gas-fired power emissions are a primary source of global greenhouse gases, smog-creating ozone, and acid rain.

Gas-fired power plants also contain other harmful emissions that will damage our imperiled Everglades bioregion when burned in Palm Beach County, at the Everglades headwaters of the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, as they are doing through the proposed West County Energy Center (¨WCEC¨).

There is also potential risks of disaster to the adjacent Booker Park neighborhood; the local agricultural economy; and the regional ecosystem.

The gas industry proponents have spent a lot of money to buy public favor for this project. But no company comes to town bragging of their pollution. Did the pre-existing facility where FGS is now proposed (formerly operated by Florida Steel, owned by Gerdau Ameristeel) inform the public that it would leave a poisoned Superfund site behind a decade later?

Our group intends to fight this proposal, in favor of clean energy options which are available and must be pursued immediately in order to avert the potentially catastrophic results of climate change; the pollution to our environment; the increased potential for industrial disasters; and the pursuit of unsustainable economics.

For these reasons, and others, the PBCEC finds the FGS in violations of The National Environmental Policy Act (¨NEPA¨), which requires federal agencies to integrate environmental values and public interest into their decision making processes by considering the cumulative impacts of their proposed actions and reasonable alternatives to those actions. To meet this requirement, federal agencies prepare a detailed statement known as an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). EPA reviews and comments on EISs prepared by other federal agencies, maintains a national filing system for all EISs, and assures that its own actions comply with NEPA. PBCEC has reviewed the FGS Draft EIS and finds that its concerns have not been addressed sufficiently to avert impact to the public and the environment.

The ´Public Outreach and Comments´ section of the Executive Summary (ES-2 and ES-3), neglected to acknowledge PBCEC´s input, as an independent entity present at meetings, was not acknowledged, nor was the input we provided regarding climate change and other issues.

The PBCEC participated in the FGS open house, site visit and public hearing.

Table 2.3-1 of Draft EIS shows that 60.95 acres of land will be directly affected by pipeline construction and 25.30 acres will be affected by operations, this reflects 100-foot-wide construction corridors in uplands, 65-foot-wide construction, leaving 50-foot permanent easment along pipeline. Additional affected acreage is listed under the ´Extra Work Areas´ facility, but these details have not been provided, indicating a failure of a complete EIS.

In Section on Spill Containment, EIS admits that a spill would be ¨temporarily retained within on-site retention areas, with eventual discharge through existing outfalls.¨ No scenarios of potential impact to regional waters are presented for this risk, in order to assess needed mitigation efforts.

Section 3.1 which assesses ´No Action Alternatives´ presumes that ¨potential customers could select other available energy alternatives, such as oil...¨ which would ¨result in higher emission rates of nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide¨, but does not address availability of clean, renewable, sustainable energy options, such as various solar technologies that have been proven comperable to fossil fuel, and far superior when considered in full spectrum cost, including coming massive carbon mitigation costs. The section also briefly refers to conservation, but does not explore the full potential for this option, as, we feel, it may limit their investment opportunities. Investment interests are not permitted to take higher priority over public interest. This EIS does not give a sufficient assessment of alternatives.

In 4.1.4 on Geological Hazards, states that ¨plans for surcharging are under development...Detailed plans will be required prior to construction¨. When will these undergo public review? The EIS is incomplete until this is done.

According to 4.3.2, Surface Water Resources, ¨FDEP and Martin County must approve the stormwater management plans for the site through its Environmental Resource Permit (ERP) and Major Development Master Site Plan.¨ This section also reiterates that ¨FGS has not yet provided construction details for [MP 0.60] bore¨, indicating a failure to provide a complete EIS, where complete and cumulative impacts can be reviewed by the necessary agencies and members the public.

Section 4.4.1 on Wetlands indicates that the Army Corps of Engineers (COE) is responsible for approving wetland delineation on site, which includes hydrological connection to ¨waters of the United States¨, subject to COE jurisdiction (Reusch, 2008) Formal determination by COE awaits reviews by Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and EPA, again indicating that the EIS does not yet provide a complete assessment of impacts.

4.4.2 Upland Habitat section notes a the Tampa Farms property has a possible temporary storage area of 10.50 acres and Post Family Trust property also has 5 acres of property ¨currently used for cattle grazing...dominated by pine flatwoods.¨ It is suggested that ¨if either or both sites were used, existing vegetation would be cleared¨. This again displays an incomplete EIS. This 15.50 acres requires full review, including Biological Assessments for listed species of plants and animals. offers a Conclusion Regarding Federally Listed Threatened and Endangered Species which states that Applicant has ¨been informally consulting with the FWS, which is the cooperating agency in the preparation of this EIS, regarding Project effects on these listed species...requesting that the FWS consider this draft EIS as our Biological Assesment.¨ This entirely inadequate. As the PBCEC has experienced in other projects connected to this gas infrastructure (including the Gulfstream pipeline and the WCEC), both FWC and FWS have failed to locate listed species and failed to assess cumulative impacts on these imperiled species. PBCEC requests increasing oversight regarding wildlife, not minimizing it, and suggests independent review of site, due to the recent unreliability of State and Federal Biological Assessments in the region.

This section utterly fails to address the cumulative and secondary impacts of the emissions gas-fired power resulting from this storage operation on, which is in violation of NEPA, Florida´s Endangered Species Protection Act and the Native Flora of Florida Act.

Table 4.7-2 shows Land Cover Potentially Affected by LNG Storage Facility Development. which covers Permanent Operations impacts of 144 acres, including 11.33 acres of forest and 14.08 acres of wetlands. Table 4.7-3 shows Land Cover Potentially Affected by Pipeline and Aboveground Facilities, which covers Permanent Operations impacts of 25.30 acres: 7.64 acres of prarie, 8.27 acres forest and shrub land, 1.95 wetland acres.

As indicated by tables above 169.93 acres, some of which is currently in a Superfund site, will be taken away from any future restoration and integration into the rural character of the region, by the FGS proposal, which is another industrial operation with reasonable potential for further contamination. As Figure 4.7-1 of FGS Project Planned Future Project Area Land Use Map illustrates, the current state of the surrounding land is low-density, rural, wild, or agricultural. The map indicates a near-square mile of open land proposed for industrial zoning. The FGS proposal would likely encourage growth in the direction of industrial expansion in this area.

FGS is promoting this facility as an economic opportunity for lower-income Indiantown residents, but is a very short-term economic contributor. Very few permanent jobs—32 according to section 4.8.1—are created outside of the short construction period, and with the end of the fossil fuel era upon on us, the facilities will be an outdated liability before they are likely to offer any significant contribution to the Martin County or Indiantown tax base. Where as employment in agriculture and/or land management offers longer term economic and environmental stability and sustainability.

Martin County is unique in all of southeastern Florida for its rural/wild open space. FGS would be a step in the oppostite direction of protecting, preserving and even restoring that identity.

On page 4-43, Applicant threatens landowners with eminent domain: ¨if an easement cannot be negotiated with a landowner and the Project has been certificated by the FERC, FGS could use the right of eminent domain granted to it¨. Not a very neighborly attitude.

Section 4.10.2 and 4.10.3 On the Native American Consultation Compliance with NHPA. PBCEC acknowledges that it does represent any indigenous community in what is now called Florida, but it seeks to note for the record that it does not see any indication of site visits by the mentioned Tribal representatives, and it does notice any efforts at consultation with the Independent Traditional Seminole Nation of Florida. We also observe that Applicant has not consulted with the SHPO or conducted cultural surveys of the Tampa Farms property or the Post Family Trust property, reflecting an incomplete EIS.

4.11.1 Air Quality. The absence of sufficient air quality monitoring stations renders this EIS section insufficient for accuracy of assessing cumulative impacts to air quality and ongoing monitoring for compliance with permit. The Prevetion of Significant Deterioration (PSD), should be triggered on NOx, CO and respirable particulate matter/´fugitive dust´ (PM/TSP), which exceed PSD levels, for at least the first 2 years of construction, so that a PSD review can take place for that time period. Project Operation may likely exceeds standards on NOx and CO if equipment engine emissions for maintenance work, onsite traffic, etc. were documented.

The PBCEC contends that the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Lake Okeechobee, the J.W. Corbett WMA, the DuPuis WEA should be considered within the Class I area of the Everglades National Park (ENP) due to the hydro-connectivity of regional water bodies and the threat of air pollution travelling south as acid rain or concentrating in regional waters destined for ENP through the evapotranspiration of the rain-driven Everglades watershed.

The Title V program, as described in 40 CFR 70, should be required under the cumulative review of the the FGS project in relation to the surrounding power plants (Barley Barber, Cogentrix) and agricultural operations which would exceed major source levels when combined (see EIS section 4.13.4, Resource-Specific Cumulative Effect Analysis).

While Greenhouse Gas (GHG) is not yet subject to regulation on a national or regional level, it may be done in the time period before this EIS is completed, so it should be taken into full consideration. The statement ¨project operation is likely to cause an overall net reduction of greenhouse gas emissions due to the increased availability of natural gas as a substitiute for alternative fuels such as oil and coal that emit more CO2 per unity of energy¨ is irrelevant, as it is not based on any timeline for reduction to achieve the level set by the Governor´s Executive Order on Climate Change or the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It is simply empty rhetoric to win favor for the project.

Simple math of cumulative and secondary impacts tell an entirely different story. The FGS facility itself emits approximately 2 million tons per year for operations. The gas will in turn be burned in power plants, adding tens-of-millions of tons to the CO2 and CO2e. For example, the three FPL proposed or existing gas power plants plant most likely to use the FGS gas—Barley Barber, WCEC, and Riviera Re-Power project—will total over 30 million more tons of GHGs a year. There are no competeing coal or oil facilities to compare with. What we have in front of us is the the mandate from Governor Crist to reduce CO2 emissions 80% below 1990 levels. While current international climate science has been tightening down the reduction schedule, Florida and the U.S. has continued going the wrong direction at a rapid pace. FGS is the wrong way for GHG reduction. Any other position is greenwashing and if you follow the money to the source of the message, it will generally be apparent.

4.12.2 Front-End Engineering Design Review recommendations need to be followed and allowed for public review, especially, but not limited to those which are suggested, ¨Prior to the end of the draft EIS comment period¨. As is stated.

4.12.5 Emergency Response and Evacuation Planning, suggests emergency procedures manuals be prepared prior to commencing operations. They should be available for review prior to commencement.

In accordance with 6 CFR 27.215 ´covered facilities´, which FGS would qualify for under the DHS, must complete a Security Vulnerability Assessment (SVA) which identifies, among other criteria, ¨strategies that reduce the probability of a successful attack or reduce the probable degree of success.¨

4.12.6 Terrorism and Security Issues, EIS states that the likelihood of future acts of sabotage is unpredictable given the disparate motives and abilities, and then goes on to assert that ´The need to construct facilities to support the future natural gas pipeline infrastructure is not diminished from the threat of any such unpredictable acts.¨

The PBCEC feels that this position of the EIS is contrary to public interest, and reflects only the monetary interests of the industry it speaks of. Centralized power infrastructure makes communities vulnerable to sabotage unnecessarily, considering that safe, distributed generation options exist and are available now.

More over, the energy sector, with its legacy of monopoly and political influence, has made itself a target by flaunting its greed and arrogance in the face of those it exploits and disregards to extract the desired high-profit resources. The political, economic and environmental climate has created the context where sabotaging energy infrastructure is regarded as a heroic act of rebellion.

This may apply even more so in FGS´s circumstances in south FLorida, where 4 years ago, the wealthy, white community of Palm Beach Shores (on Palm Beach Island) successfully deflected an LNG proposal in their community (Seafarer Pipeline) and now a new similar proposal has re-surfaced neighboring one of the lowest-income working-class rural communities of color in the region. The PBCEC has been inquiring about environmental racism at public hearings, of which nothing was included in the EIS.

The report ¨Environmental Racism and Biased Methods of Risk Assessment¨ by Daniel C. Wigley & Kristin S. Shrader-Frechette, notes that: ¨Because there is growing national concern that disparities in environmental and health risks are related to race and socioeconomic status, preventing environmental racism and promoting environmental justice is now a top priority on the public health agenda of the U.S. Environmental justice is the attempt to accord all people -- regardless of their race, ethnicity, class, age or gender -- equal protection and equal opportunity in matters of environmental degradation and resource consumption... On February 11, 1994, [President Clinton] signed Executive Order 12898 that directs each federal agency to develop an environmental justice strategy for "identifying and addressing... disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low-income populations...environmental injustice and racism occur not only when policymakers violate minorities' rights to free informed consent or equal treatment in siting decisions but also when risk assessors use biased scientific methods whose policy consequences de facto result in unjustified discrimination against people of color and socioeconomically disadvantaged groups...[R]isk assessors are neither innocent nor ignorant of the fact that the f[l]awed EIS encourages imposing inequitable risk on socioeconomically disadvantaged communities. As a result, using the methodologically biased EIS appears to encourage unjustified discrimination against people of color.¨

PBCEC feels the FGS EIS fails to recognize this Executive Order, and while we do not claim to represent the Booker Park neighborhood in Indiantown, we have observed that the EIS is failing to accurately assess the safety risks and the cumulative impacts to health, safety and quality of life to that neighborhood, in violation of NEPA.

4.13 Cumulative Impacts, this section represents the most important assessments of an EIS from the environmental perspective. CEQ defines cumulative impacts in the EIS as the ¨impacts on the environment which result from the incremental impact of the action when added to other past, present and reasonably foreseeable future actions regardless of what agency (federal or non-federal) or person undertakes such other actions.¨

Water Resources:
It is stated that the Project would have a long term affect on water resources, but from earleir in the EIS it is clear that this impact is not known. neither for quality nor quantity issues. No reference to SFWMD Consumptive use permit was found in the EIS. The total amount of water consumed is unclear. No reference to contaminants in the wastewater were found, let alone the cumulative impacts of contributing industrial effluent into existing pollution levels. For example, will this facility use a chromium of some sort for washing equipment, as most gas facilities do? How much? How will it be disposed of?

Vegetation and Wildlife:
The Project would permanently affect 78.40 acres of vegetation that provides habitat for a variety of wildlife. The EIS comments on ¨the proliferation of invasive and exotic species¨ as ¨a major issue in Florida.¨ The EIS suggests a removal of australian pine and brazillian pepper, but does not ensure comittment of native re-vegetation. The EIS notes three significant development plans, one of which is larger than Indiantown's entire populated land mass. No acreage is listed for these combined developments. It appears to be in the thousand of acres of land taken from the current pool of open space, which is dominated by large areas of open prarie and pine flatwoods. The EIS contends that ¨these habitat types are common throughout the region and likely would not provide significant wildlife habitat. Ther majority of wildlife species displaced by these projections would likely be able to relocate and would not suffer long-term, population-level impacts to biodiversity within the region. Therefore, there would be no significant cumulative impact to wildlife resources.¨

WHO WROTE THIS GARBAGE?! This is an embarassment to the tax-paying public who expects professional oversight to protect the quality of life, natural resources and wildlife habitat that is left on this planet.

The EIS has already admitted, noted above, that no FWS input has been received, so who is it that is expressing this utter idiocy regarding ´vegetation and wildlife´?

Where to begin.. The PBCEC feels that pine flatwoods and open prarie are far from worthless habitat. This contradicts the EIS, which in fact states that ¨These habitats provide cover and forage for avian and wildlife species including loggerhead shrike, ground dove, common nighthawk, American robin, feral hog, raccoon, armadillo, coyote, white-tailed deer, and black racer... The transmission line right-of-way...provides quality habitat for typical pine flatwoods such as the gopher tortoise.¨

¨Unlike most other grasslands in the southeastern United States, Florida dry prarie harbors numerous endemic vertebrates (FWS, 1991), Several rare avian taxa are near endemic to the dry prarie region of south-central Florida.Both breeding and seasonal migrants use dry praries extensively.¨

Along with habitat loss, the development excused by the EIS in section 4.13.4 completely ignores wildlife loss from roadkill and even the value of agricultural land to many species. If the EIS favoring public interest and the environment, it could have touted the coming restoration of the Everglades (which is a multi billion tax dollar endeavor) and an improving land ethic that could one day, perhaps, invite back the Florida Panther to the east side of the lake. The FGS proposal, the future traffic and industrialization coming behind it, and the cumulative air and water pollution that comes with it, robs the public of expected and deserved protections.

PBCEC also feels that the reality of climate change is a violation of the Endangered Species Act seriously threatening several federally-listed species in Florida, including, but not limited to: Florida Panther and the Staghorn Coral.

PBCEC disagrees with the statement that ¨The current and potential future actions in the Project area would similarly provide economic benefits through increased employment opportunities and payment of taxes.¨ We found no back-up information to qualitfy this statement from an expert source. Again, it appears to be another position intended to promote the Project under EIS review, rather than provide an objective analysis. The PBCEC would like to see where this position on the economic benefits orginated, and review any assessment to ensure that it takes the financial costs of coming carbon constraints into consideration.

PBCEC final summary:
-The project is not needed.
-The EIS is lacking important information for adequate oversight
-EIS Approval is enabling risks, rather than abating them
-Clean, renewable, low-risk, low-impact energy alternatives exist and have not been explored.
-Full impact to waters of the U.S. have not been addressed.
-Thorough review of threatened/endangered species, and their habitats, has not occurred.

For these reasons, and more, we request to be intervenors in order to stop the EIS from being issued. Many communities across the U.S. have fought LNG proposals and won. Please look closely at this project. Future generations depend on your decisions today.

If you have questions, please feel free to contact me: 561-588-9666

Panagioti Tsolkas,
co-chair, PBC Environmental Coalition

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