Florida SE Connection gas pipeline construction to begin, will supply FPL

This map shows the pipeline's route.
This map shows the pipeline’s route.

Federal regulators have given the go-ahead for construction to begin on the southern portion of a new $3.2 billion natural gas pipeline slated to supply Florida Power & Light Co.’s  South Florida plants.

Friday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted Florida Southeast Connection LLC’s request to commerce construction. The company is a subsidary of FPL’s parent company, NextEra Energy Inc., Juno Beach.

Florida Southeast Connection spokesman Dave McDermitt said, “Final approval of this vital underground natural gas pipeline is a significant milestone for Florida Southeast Connection, FPL customers and the Florida economy.

“This culminates a comprehensive, 2.5-year review by numerous federal, state and local government agencies to ensure the project meets or exceeds strict environmental and other regulatory requirements,” McDermitt said. “We look forward to beginning construction activities soon so that Florida can begin to benefit from an additional and necessary supply of clean, U.S.-produced natural gas.”

Florida Southeast Connection is the 126-mile southernmost portion of a 685-mile pipeline that originates in Alabama. It will go through Osceola, Polk, Okeechobee. St. Lucie and Martin counties and end at FPL’s Martin County plant near Indiantown.

FPL uses the fossil fuel to provide 71 percent of the fuel to run its power plants.

The northernmost 515 miles, known as Sabal Trail, is a joint venture of Houston-based Spectra Energy Partners, LP, FPL’s parent company NextEra Energy Inc., Juno Beach, and Duke Energy of Charlotte, N.C.

The project also includes Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co.’s 48-mile Hillabee Expansion Project and six new compressor stations.

Sabal Trail spokeswoman Andrea Grover said Friday that portion is expected to be under construction later this month.

It’s anticipated the entire pipeline will be in service by mid-2017.

On June 28 and August 10, FERC authorized Sabal Trail to mobilize its construction contractors and begin pre-construction activities at certain areas along the project in advance of construction, Grover said.

“We are currently performing the FERC authorized pre-construction activities including surveys and gopher tortoise trapping and relocation activities,” Grover said.

FPL uses the fossil fuel to provide 71 percent of the fuel to run its power plants.

The project has been widely opposed by environmental groups and residents of the communities along the route. They have raised concerns that the pipeline will harm the Floridan Aquifer, which supplies water to millions of people in Florida and Georgia, and could damage wetlands, scenic rivers and wildlife habitat and pose a safety threat.

In February FERC issued a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the pipeline.

Regulators required Florida Southeast Connection to purchase wetland mitigation credits.

 

 

 

 

 

Sabal Trail pipeline’s adverse impacts will be mitigated, agency says

The Withlacoochee River is among those the pipeline could affect.
The Withlacoochee River, which originates in Central Florida’s Green Swamp,  is among those the pipeline could affect.

A $3.2 billion natural gas pipeline slated to supply Florida Power & Light’s South Florida plants would have some adverse environmental impacts, but those impacts would be reduced to less-than-significant levels with proposed mitigation measures,  federal regulators said Friday.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s staff  released the final environmental impact statement for the Southeast Market Pipelines Project. If approved, the 685-mile pipeline will originate in Alabama and include the separate but connected  Hillabee Expansion, Sabal Trail and  Florida Southeast Connection projects. It will include six new compressor stations as well.

The project has been widely opposed by environmental groups and residents of the communities on the route. They have raised concerns that the pipeline will harm the Floridan Aquifer which supplies water to millions of people in Florida and Georgia, could damage wetlands, scenic rivers and wildlife habitat and poses a safety hazard to residents.

“The Sunshine State should not be relying on dangerous fossil fuel infrastructure.  No mitigation plan can truly account for the damage to a community if a hazardous incident occurs.  As of 2014 there were over 700 pipeline incidents that had been reported, and many more that have gone undocumented.  When will our agencies learn that our water, wetlands, and communities are not for sale to the highest bidder?”  said Johanna de Graffenreid, Coastal Campaign Organizer at Gulf Restoration Network, New Orleans.

Steven Caley, an Atlanta-based GreenLaw attorney representing Sierra Club and several River Keepers groups,  said of FERC, “They’ve never seen a pipeline they didn’t like.”

Caley questioned how the FERC staff can say the pipeline will be environmentally sound when it has not even seen the mitigation plans.

“They’ve had thousands of comments and have had several experts weigh in from the parties who have gone to the time and expense of giving them analysis on the effect the pipeline could have. They basically have ignored everything. They have not given any credence to anything anyone has said,” Caley said.

“But instead they have relied completely on everything Sabal Trail has given them. FERC has shown it is nothing but a lapdog. They get all their funding from the natural gas industry, so what do you expect?” Caley said.

Juno Beach-based FPL and parent company NextEra Energy officials have said they expect the pipeline to be in service by mid-2017. It will bring gas from a Central Florida hub to FPL’s Martin County plant, then to its plants in Rivera Beach and at Port Everglades.

A 480-mile portion of the pipeline, the Sabal Trail Transmission Project, is a joint venture of a subsidiary of Juno Beach-based FPL’s parent company, NextEra Energy Inc., and Houston-based Spectra Energy.
The southern 126-mile leg is proposed by Florida Southeast Connection, another NextEra subsidiary.

The conclusions and recommendations in the EIS are those of FERC staff, with input from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Army Corps will also present its own recommendations and conclusions.

FERC said the main reasons for its conclusions are:

    • each Applicant would minimize impacts on the natural and human environments during construction and operation of its facilities by implementing the numerous measures described in their respective construction and restoration plans;
    • the majority of the proposed facilities would be collocated within or adjacent to existing rights-of-way;
    • all of the proposed facilities would be constructed and operated in compliance with federal standards, requirements, and thresholds including U.S. Department of Transportation materials requirements and Environmental Protection Agency air emissions standards;
    • a high level of public participation was achieved during the pre-filing and post application review processes and helped inform our analysis;
    • environmental justice populations would not be disproportionately affected by the SMP Project;
    • the horizontal directional drilling crossing method would be utilized for most major and sensitive waterbodies, the majority of other waterbodies would be crossed using dry crossing methods, and the Applicants would be required to obtain applicable permits and provide mitigation for unavoidable impacts on waterbodies and wetlands through coordination with the USACE and state regulatory agencies;
    • we would complete Endangered Species Act consultations with the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service prior to allowing any construction to begin;
    • we would complete the process of complying with section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and implementing the regulations at 36 CFR 800 prior to allowing any construction to begin; and
  • environmental inspection and monitoring programs would ensure compliance with all construction and mitigation measures that become conditions of the FERC authorizations.

The FERC Commissioners will take into consideration staff’s recommendations when they make a decision on the Projects.

Here are links to the EIS documents: