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April 18, 2014

Guest column: A letter to John Peconom, project manager, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, from State Representative Elizabeth Porter

Live Oak —

Mr. John Peconom

Project Manager

Federal Energy Regulatory Comm.

Mr. Peconom,

Please allow me to introduce myself. I am State Rep. Elizabeth Porter, the representative for House District 10 which includes the counties of Suwannee, Columbia, Hamilton, Baker and Alachua. It is also the House District that contains the greatest number of first magnitude springs in Florida, including the world famous Ichetucknee Spring and river.

I write to you today in regard to the proposed Sabal Trail natural gas transmission pipeline. First let me say that I am in full support of an additional transmission line for the state of Florida, as I see it not only as an economic plus, but also as a matter of state security in the event of other pipeline failures or interruptions. I am concerned, however, with the latest proposed route for the line. The initial primary alignment was proposed to pass directly under the Ichetucknee River, but after much public outcry, a route deviation was developed by Sabal Trail.

Though I certainly appreciate Sabal’s willingness to propose an alternate route, the new route is unfortunately still in a critically sensitive area. It is only 0.6 miles downstream from the confluence of the Ichetucknee and Santa Fe rivers, and is still continuing to cause tremendous public concern. The route would require directional drilling underneath the Santa Fe River in a highly karstic area known for well-developed sinkholes, underground fracture systems, and multiple spring vents that comprise significant geologic hazards that are highly susceptible to sudden structural collapse. The route also bisects one of the most densely-platted residential areas in Suwannee County. This alternative route crosses these well-documented geologic hazards which pose highly significant potential for pipeline rupture which could cause a catastrophic explosion and/or leakage of hydrocarbons.

A common sense alternative already exists since the pipeline can easily be co-located with, or adjacent to, already-existing gas transmission pipelines such as the Florida Gas Transmission pipeline corridor located approximately 3.5 miles to the west of the proposed Santa Fe River crossing. Indeed, Sabal itself has already identified this corridor as an alternate pipeline route.

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