Valdosta Daily Times

June 29, 2013

Too soon to tell

The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — The term “pipeline” is generally met with some emotion. Images of the massive Alaskan oil pipeline and the recently discussed Keystone pipeline through the country’s midwest area have demonstrated the good and the bad of having a pipeline through your immediate area.

It was announced this week that a private company is hopeful of putting in a natural gas pipeline that will run from Anniston, Ala., through Georgia, including Lowndes County, and will end in Orlando, Fla. The Florida Power and Light Company is behind the creation of this pipeline, as natural gas is less expensive and more readily available than other sources of energy.

On the plus side, if area companies and governments could tap into the resource, rather than just having the lines cross the county, it would be beneficial in a number of ways. School buses across the country, including several large districts in Florida, have converted their fleets to run on natural gas and are already enjoying the savings. A number of companies are looking into the resource to fuel their long-term and long-distance transportation needs. It would be a cost savings, environmentally friendly, and a good alternative to combat the volatility of gas prices and availability.

On the down side, a 100-foot corridor is substantial. Consider that a two-lane highway is typically 20 to 22 feet wide, a 100-foot-wide corridor is the rough equivalent of a 10-lane highway. That’s a very large swath of land. A typical electrical easement is 20 to 30 feet.

If the intent is to have 70 percent of the pipeline run on existing easements, how will that work? What if there are buildings/ residences within 100 feet of the easement? What is the company’s plan then?

A number of questions remain to be answered and no one at FPL or Sabal Trail would answer them this week. All there is to rely on right now is a website about the proposed project and the letters sent out to local government entities and residents.

Until concerns and questions are addressed, it’s too soon to tell if this is a good and viable project for the area or if it’s another potential debacle. But as one concerned resident stated this week, “I’m not signing anything until I know what’s going on.” Wise words.