The FERC environmental impact study was recently released, which all but gives Sabal Trail the permits they want or need. The Gainesville Sun has a long article today by Christopher Curry which outlines the history of that project. A post in our website is referenced and the quoted paragraph can be read below.
The complete article can see read at this link the the newspaper.
Sabal Trail pipeline environmental impact ‘not significant,’ feds say
In a report issued last week, the federal agency with approval authority over the project said construction of the interstate natural gas pipeline “would temporarily and permanently impact the environment,” with some negative effects, but “would not result in a significant impact on the environment” if the protective steps proposed by the companies behind the project and the steps federal regulators reviewing the project plan to require are followed.
That conclusion in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s draft environmental impact statement on Sabal Trail appears to be a significant step forward for the pipeline receiving federal authorization.
On Monday, a FERC spokeswoman said a 45 day window for public comment on the environmental report opened Sept. 11 and runs through Oct. 26. Meetings to get public feedback are scheduled for Oct. 1 in Lake City and Oct. 8 in Bell.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has already released its notice of intent to issue an environmental resource permit for the project and to allow the pipeline to run across the state’s “sovereign submerged lands” and under four rivers, including the Suwannee and the Santa Fe.
A south Georgia-based environmental group with members in north Florida, the WWALS Watershed Coalition, has an active challenge against that DEP permit that’s been assigned to administrative law judge with Florida’s Division of Administrative Hearings.
The FERC report drew criticism from an environmental group focused on north central Florida’s rivers and springs, Our Santa Fe River Inc.
“FERC, who had some tough questions for Sabal Trail early on, has turned into a pussy cat protector of this unwanted and unneeded business venture,” a statement posted last week on the group’s website said.
In a statement, a spokeswoman with Spectra Energy, the Houston, Texas company that will design, build and operate the pipeline, said company officials are reviewing the federal report “to understand FERC’s assessment of our application, route, construction techniques, impacts and mitigation.”
“Upon initial review, it appears FERC has performed a very comprehensive review of the Sabal Trail project in the DEIS (draft environmental impact statement),” Spectra spokeswoman Andrea Grover wrote.
Sabal Trail is a planned $3.2 billion, 515-mile, three-foot-wide pipeline to carry up to 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day from Alabama through south Georgia and a dozen Florida counties, including Alachua, Gilchrist, Suwannee, Levy and Marion, to a connector pipeline in Osceola County.
The pipeline will provide natural gas for a Florida Power & Light electric generation and a Duke Energy plant in Citrus County. The pipeline is a joint venture between FPL parent company NextEra, Duke and Spectra Energy.
Construction is expected to impact or destroy 940 acres of wetlands – including nearly 700 acres in Florida – and include the “loss of wetlands through the placement of fill material,” according to the state and federal environmental reports.
In Florida, the DEP deemed those impacts “temporary,” although restoration of wetlands may take as short as two years or as long as 50 years.
The federal report also said the impact on wetlands was not considered significant because of plans for restoration.
“The Applicants would conduct annual post-construction monitoring of wetlands affected by construction to assess the condition of revegetation and the success of restoration until revegetation is successful,” the FERC report stated.
The federal environmental report on the planned pipeline construction route through south Georgia and north Florida identified the region’s karst geology, with its underground caves, underground stream systems and vulnerability to sinkholes; the potential impact on groundwater quality and quantity; and springs.
In their analysis, FERC staff said pipeline construction along most of the route would only have impacts six to eight feet below the surface and “groundwater and cave systems are generally found at greater depths.”
In the report, federal regulatory staff noted that deeper underground drilling would occur at two spots in Georgia and three in Florida, including the locations where the pipeline would cross under the Suwannee and Santa Fe rivers.
The pipeline would cross through 11 first and second magnitude springsheds, including the springsheds for Madison Blue, Troy, Royal, the 23 first and second magnitude springs in the Santa Fe’s system and 16 in the Rainbow River system, the FERC report stated.
“Constructing and operating the Sabal Trail project in south Georgia/north Florida could induce sinkhole development, alter springs characteristics and impact local groundwater flow and quality,” federal staff wrote in their report.
The primary threat identified in the report was the release of drilling mud.
Federal environmental staff then concluded that the companies behind Sabal Trail conducted extensive engineering, consulted with the Florida Geological Survey and took public input to select a route that “does not occur in an area of high karst sensitivity.” The federal regulators did ask for a revised mitigation plan focused on areas where deeper horizontal drilling would cut through areas of more porous, karst limestone.
The FERC report also concluded that protection of springs and groundwater could be achieved through Sabal Trail’s “best drilling practices plan,” which includes steps to reduce the loss of drilling mud, and plans to monitor springs and wells and “mitigate impacts.”
At this point, there is no timetable for when the members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will vote on authorizing the project, a FERC spokeswoman said Monday.