Valdosta Daily Times

September 22, 2013

Pipeline intersects area

Sabal Trail project runs from Alabama to Florida

Matthew Woody
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Sabal Trail Transmission, a subsidiary of Spectra Energy, has partnered with Florida Power & Light to run a natural gas pipeline from Tallapoosa County in Alabama to Osceola County in Florida. This path will nearly divide Brooks County in half, diagonally, and cut through the southwest portion of Lowndes County.

Andrea Grover, Public Affairs Representative from Spectra Energy, said that initially the pipe was going to be a closed system, but Spectra Energy decided to turn the pipe into an “open access pipe,” meaning that any area along the pipe could potentially tap into the system to either receive gas from or supply gas to the pipeline. Describing the pipeline as a highway, Grover said it will have on-ramps and off-ramps.  They provide the transportation of the gas, and once the pipe is in service, communities are encouraged to work with Sabal.

When asked about the benefits of the pipe, Grover stated, “The economic benefits are critical.”

The company will pay taxes, provide both permanent and temporary jobs, and natural gas to the cities it travels through (if the cities choose to tap into the pipeline).

The pipe’s route has an “Option A” and an “Option B.” Option A is shifted more west which minimizes the impact on the residents of Lowndes County. Option B would bypass Brooks County, but split Lowndes straight down the middle. To minimize the impact of the pipe, most of the pipe will be buried at a minimum of three feet.

Once the pipe is buried, Grover said, Sabal Trail will restore the property “back to or near as practicable to the situation that existed before the pipeline was there.”

Landowners will be able to resume normal activity on their property, except no permanent structures can be built over the pipeline because they would impede with the maintenance of the pipe. If the land above the pipe was used for agricultural use, then that land will still be able to be used in that manner.

Safety is a huge factor when it comes to a project of this magnitude. Since the Southeast is prone to hurricanes and tornadoes, Sabal Trail considered that, and said their pipeline will be made to withstand those events. Also, the pipe will be monitored 24/7. The monitoring system will be fitted with sensors which would detect leaks. The pipeline will have shut-off valves that will be shut off remotely in the event of a leak.  Sabal Trail will walk the pipeline regularly checking for anomalies, such as the changing of the color of the grass, which is an indicator that the pipe requires maintenance at that location.

Addressing the N.I.M.B.Y (Not In My BackYard) viewpoint, Grover said there are always going to be some, who are sometimes misinformed, but Spectra Energy will work with all of the landowners.

“We recognize that we will be there for a long time and want to ensure a stable and positive relationship.”

Grover also said that Spectra Energy has been in contact with people along the proposed route since June, and will begin to hold meetings in the affected communities beginning in October.

Sabal Trail has already been in contact with Lowndes County government as well, said Grover. Speaking with Page Dukes, Lowndes County Clerk, Dukes said that the county is being treated like any other land owner along the route. The county will not have an opportunity to approve or deny the passage of the pipeline through Lowndes County. Also, when asked if Lowndes County has considered tapping into the pipeline, Dukes said, “That offer has not been made to the county.”

Spectra Energy will have to be granted easement of the land to obtain a right-of-way; this is typically “a 50-foot-wide permanent right of way.” Sabal Trail will survey a 600 foot corridor along the entire route of the pipeline, then narrow the place of the pipe down a 100 foot corridor. Spectra Energy will have the right to use the land until they have finished installing the pipe and restoring the land. Then the land reverts back to its original landowner.

If your property is chosen by Spectra Energy for the pipeline, your property will be appraised by an independent real estate appraiser provided by Spectra Energy, and “based upon the appraiser’s market evaluation as well as other factors, Spectra Energy determines the fair market value to be used for negotiations,” said Grover.

Spectra Energy goes into every easement negotiation expecting that an agreement will be reached. However, in the event that an agreement cannot be reached, they can obtain the rights to easement by eminent domain through the Federal Natural Gas Act. Eminent domain will not be used as a negotiating tool, but “only as a means of last resort,” she said.

If eminent domain is used, then the court will “determine the appropriate compensation in the valuation proceeding.” Then the landowner would be able to present to the court the compensation they deem appropriate for the land.

Construction on the pipeline will begin mid 2016.

Any questions or concerns addressed by contacting Andrea Grover at 1-888-215-6683, or at http://www.sabaltrailtransmission.com/contact.