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Pipeline could be reality

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Details are starting to emerge about the path of a massive underground natural gas pipeline that will cross through Chambers County. The pipeline is a project proposed by Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) to provide natural gas for the state’s increasing power generation needs. It would cover an estimated 465 miles and traverse parts of Tallapoosa, Chambers and Lee Counties and continue into Georgia and then Florida. The start of the pipeline would be Tallapoosa County, where a compressor station would be constructed.

In June, the Chambers County Commission was briefed by a representative from Spectra Energy Corp, a company bidding on the northern portion of the project operating as Sabal Trail Transmission, about the pipeline and potential impact. No indication as to what part of the county it affected was noted at that meeting. FPL is set to award the bid this month and Sabal is thought to be a favorite to receive it.

Now with the anticipated bid date approaching, Sabal is getting a head start.  Two weeks ago, representatives from the company contacted the Chambers County Development Authority about their property in the Cusseta Industrial Park for topographic and environmental studies. The location they are seeking to survey is situated west of the Daedong Hi-Lex and Great Lakes Metal Stamping facilities in an area not currently occupied. The proposed pipeline would not actually cross the Cusseta Park but the potential right-of-way would. Sabal Trails representatives had noted that study corridors would typically be 600 feet wide, but the pipeline corridor would be as narrow as 100 feet.

CCDA Executive     Director Valerie Gray brought the request to the attention of the Development Authority Board and it was discussed at their meeting last Tuesday.

“Today, the CCDA Board voted to allow Sabal Transmissions onto a portion of our property to “survey” for the proposed natural gas pipeline,” Gray said Tuesday after the meeting. “The pipeline itself will not impact the CCDA’s property but the proposed right-of-way or easement area and nearby areas are being surveyed.”

Gray said that the pipeline is operating with eminent domain authority and it has not yet been decided if the CCDA will seek compensation for their concession. “The Board authorized our attorney to begin drafting a response with conditions about us getting copies of the studies,” she added.

The proposed path of the pipeline was also released (pictured) and it indicates that the route would affect the southwestern portion of Chambers County.

Unlike many other states, Florida has only minimal natural gas production, no storage capabilities, and the two major natural gas pipelines serving the peninsula are nearing full capacity. To ensure a reliable, U.S.-produced fuel supply for the future, the FPL says a new pipeline is needed. The proposed completion date is in 2017 at a cost of $3 billion. Florida uses more natural gas for electricity than any U.S. state other than Texas, with about 60 percent of Floridians’ power is generated by plants that burn natural gas.

In discussing economic benefits for Chambers County, Sabal representatives said that access to a reliable natural gas source would be a plus and that some jobs could be created during construction, but that many permanent jobs would come at the compression facility in Tallapoosa County.

Gray said that there could be some economic advantages if the county were able to access the pipeline, but that it could cause potential setbacks for potential new industries looking at Chambers County as a place to do business due to unknowns such as techniques that cause vibrations in the ground. “The bottom line is, my job is to anticipate problems and reduce risk for both parties when any company considers locating within our area therefore, it’s important that we are diligent in this process,” she said.

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