November 17, 2013

Residents opposed to natural gas pipeline

Concerns about tactics, property damage

November 17, 2013 Matthew Woody The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Energy, one of Sabal Trail’s parent companies, has a link on its website titled “The Art of Transporting Natural Gas.” This link explains the pipeline components, compressor stations, metering stations, valves, and control stations. But before Sabal Trail can transport any natural gas through South Georgia as planned or anywhere else, the company must request permission from property owners to survey the property.

Sabal Trail Transmission was created by both Spectra Energy and NextEra Energy. In July, Sabal Trail was awarded a 465-mile interstate pipeline project by Florida Power & Light Company to transport more than 1 billion cubic feet per day, through a 36-inch pipeline, beginning in Tallapoosa County, Ala., extending through Georgia, and ending at FPL’s Central Florida Hub near Orlando. This pipeline runs through Colquitt, Brooks and Lowndes counties.

As of October, Sabal Trail narrowed the pipeline down to the preferred route in the proposed 600-foot corridor.

Andrea Grover, Spectra Energy public affairs representative, said, “Sabal Trail is still working with all the landowners along the study corridor for survey work. This will continue into next year. We have received nearly 90 percent survey approval to date.”

This surveying will allow the company to narrow its route further to the 100-foot construction corridor. Other natural gas lines running through the area only require a 50-foot corridor.

In a hand-out titled, “Sabal Trail Transmission: Right-of-way Easement Notifications, Negotiations and Acquisition,” the company states it will, “Meet with land owners to explain the details of the project, identify specific concerns land owners may have, and work with the landowners, project engineers, and environmental specialists to address these concerns.”

Many landowning residents along the pipeline are either feeling uninformed, or intimidated by Sabal Trail.

Larry Rodgers of Valdosta owns 900 acres in south Lowndes and he allowed Sabal Trail on his property to survey.

“I received a call from a lady, I think her name was Becky, down in Clearwater, Fla., requesting access to my property, and I allowed it,” Rodgers said. “I allowed them to, and I can’t tell you why I did. It caught me off guard. I wasn’t fully aware of all of the facts about the pipeline like I am now, and if I knew then what I know now, I certainly would not have allowed them to survey.”

Rodgers explained that he allowed Sabal Trail access to survey his property because he did not know a lot about the pipeline. But what made matters worse, once the surveying began, Rodgers found empty plastic water bottles and trash all over his property. The surveyors also put more than 100 wooden stakes on his property.

Noticing this behavior, Rodgers said he kicked the surveyors off of his property, and rescinded his approval to survey.

Rodgers opposes the pipeline because he is concerned about safety and his property value.

Lowndes County resident Carol Singletary has received several letters with “thinly veiled threats,” she said.

Singletary is adamantly opposed to allowing Sabal Trail access to her property, because of what she considers bullying tactics, Singletary said.

During an interview Thursday night, Singletary said she spoke with a Sabal Trail representative, and after a long heated discussion, she gave them permission to survey her property. But as soon as she made it home, Singletary had a letter on her door that threatened eminent domain, so she withdrew her permission to survey her property.

“The company undid all of that guy’s hard work,” Singletary said.

For Singletary, the biggest concern is safety.

“The impact area, if this pipeline were to fail, is a 600-foot radius. It would be like a nuclear bomb going off. It’s horrific. It would take my home out. It would kill my children. It would hit my grandchildren, and it would actually hit my neighbor across the street.”

The Times transposed the map provided by Sabal Trail over the map of Lowndes County and accompanying this article is a list of all the property owners and parcel numbers the pipeline may affect. Citing FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) guidelines, Sabal Trail representatives stated they could not provide a list of properties to the media.

Sabal Trail will host two open houses for Colquitt, Brooks, and Lowndes counties.

Brooks and Lowndes Counties: 5 to 7:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 16, Clyattville Elementary School Cafeteria, 5386 Madison Highway.

Colquitt County: 5 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12, Moultrie Technical Facility, Building A (VPC Conference Center), 800 Veterans Parkway N., Moultrie.

Sabal Trail representatives will also be doing a presentation at the Lowndes County Commission Work Session at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 9.

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