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June 13, 2014

Sabal Trail project still in pre-filing stage

Live Oak —

A proposed natural gas pipeline is still in the pre-filing stage while the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) gathers concerns regarding its construction, said Tamara Young-Allen, spokesperson for FERC.

Sabal Trail Transmission pipeline will travel through Florida including Suwannee and Hamilton counties.

According to Allen, the pre-filing stage will continue until the company files an application or seeks to terminate the pre-filing process, which means they will not file an application.

“There is no deadline that they have to file an application by,” Allen said. “The pre-filing stage will continue until they file an application or asks us to terminate the pre-filing.”

Allen said the pre-filing stage is an informal process where FERC holds community meetings to hear the concerns of residents along the proposed path.

According to FERC, in order for a private company to receive a certificate to construct a natural gas pipeline, there are several steps that are taken to investigate the project before approval.

The proposed company can voluntarily enter into a pre-filing environmental review with FERC. FERC then conducts scoping to determine environmental issues and attempts to resolve them. The company can then file an application with FERC and a notice of application is given. FERC will then conduct scoping, if the pre-filing process is not used. FERC will then issue an environmental impact statement (EIS). A response to environmental comments will then be issued and a final EIS. The final EIS will then be submitted to the commission for final approval.

The purpose of FERC is to evaluate whether interstate natural gas pipeline projects proposed by private companies should be approved.

According to FERC, “The Federal government does not propose, construct, operate, or own such projects.”

Thus far, FERC and Sabal Trail officials have held several meetings in this area to inform local residents about FERC and this project, as well as to give the public a time to voice their concerns.

To obtain documents that have been filed so far or to read comments that have been submitted, visit ferc.gov and select eLibrary in the top right hand corner. Then select general search from the search options. Select the dates to search and type PF14-1 in the box for docket number, and finally, select submit at the bottom of the page.

Sabal Trail recently changed their proposed route where the pipeline would have crossed the Santa Fe River in Suwannee County to an existing pipeline corridor, according to Andrea Grover, spokesperson for Sabal Trail.

According to Grover, the company’s original proposed route followed an overhead power line corridor and would have crossed the Santa Fe about half a mile downstream from where the Ichetucknee River empties into the Santa Fe. This route is still being considered as an alternative route, however, the company has changed their primary (preferred) route to cross the river along an existing pipeline corridor where a Florida Gas Transmission pipeline already runs under the river in Gilchrist County.

“This is now our primary and preferred route,” Grover told the Democrat. “Once we were able to talk to the people on a local level, we heard their concerns and were able to change the route to the west.”

Grover said this move will greatly reduce its impact on the local community.

“They asked us to consider the crossing line further west and we did. The route that followed FGT proved to be the most favorable route,” Grover said. “There will be a reduction of land owners impacted; the impact to the wetlands and endangered species will be greatly reduced, and we’re minimizing any new impacts the other route would have had.”

Grover said the survey work is nearly completed, which narrows down the projected path of the pipeline.

“We have now completed approximately 95 percent of our survey work, including environmental surveys, and have been able to narrow down the proposed pipeline path,” Grover said. “In most cases, the pipeline will ultimately be within a 50-foot wide permanent easement and temporarily utilize an additional 50 feet for construction.”

The 36-inch diameter pipeline will be about 474 miles long and will make its way through four Alabama counties, nine Georgia counties and 12 Florida counties, including Suwannee and surrounding Madison and Hamilton counties. The pipeline will also extend another 24 miles, which will be 24-inch diameter in size, off of the mainline near Dunnellon into Citrus County to serve Duke Energy's proposed natural gas facility. 

The pipeline will extend for approximately 40.6 miles in Suwannee County and approximately 222 landowners will be affected by this project. The pipeline will extend for approximately 16.4 miles in Hamilton County and about 43 landowners will be affected.

Grover said that on Monday, June 2, Sabal Trail filed a draft version of resource reports for the project with FERC.

“These drafts include data we’ve collected about the project to date. Sabal Trail will continue to work on researching and updating this information – including details about the Gilchrist Westerly route as the preferred route, until it files final resource reports in October,” Grover said. “These final resource reports will make up Sabal Trail’s formal FERC application. Right now, they are still very much a work in progress. Route changes and data associated with them will be included moving forward.”

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