Federal regulators have given the go-ahead for construction to begin on the southern portion of a $3.2 billion natural gas pipeline slated to supply Florida Power & Light Co.’s South Florida plants.
On Aug. 12, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted Florida Southeast Connection LLC’s request to start construction. The company is a subsidiary of FPL’s parent company, NextEra Energy Inc., Juno Beach.
“This culminates a comprehensive, 2.5-year review by numerous federal, state and local government agencies to ensure the project meets or exceeds strict environmental and other regulatory requirements,” said Florida Southeast Connection spokesman Dave McDermitt. “We look forward to beginning construction activities soon so that Florida can begin to benefit from an additional and necessary supply of clean, U.S.-produced natural gas.”
Florida Southeast Connection is the 126-mile southernmost portion of a 685-mile pipeline that originates in Alabama. It will go through Osceola, Polk, Okeechobee. St. Lucie and Martin counties and end at FPL’s Martin County plant near Indiantown.
FPL uses the fossil fuel to provide 71 percent of the fuel needed to run its power plants.
The northernmost portion of the pipeline, a 515 mile stretch known as Sabal Trail, is a joint venture of Houston-based Spectra Energy Partners, LP, FPL’s parent company NextEra Energy Inc., Juno Beach, and Duke Energy of Charlotte, N.C.
The project also includes Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co.’s 48-mile Hillabee Expansion Project and six new compressor stations.
Sabal Trail spokeswoman Andrea Grover said that portion is expected to be under construction later this month.It’s anticipated the entire pipeline will be in service by mid-2017.
This summer, FERC authorized Sabal Trail to mobilize its construction contractors and begin pre-construction activities at certain areas along the project in advance of construction, Grover said.
“We are currently performing the FERC authorized pre-construction activities including surveys and gopher tortoise trapping and relocation activities,” Grover said.
The Sabal Trail project has been widely opposed by environmental groups and residents of the communities along the route. They have raised concerns that the pipeline will harm the Floridan Aquifer, which supplies water to millions of people in Florida and Georgia, and could damage wetlands, scenic rivers and wildlife habitat and pose a safety threat.
In February FERC issued a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the pipeline. But regulators required Florida Southeast Connection to purchase wetland mitigation credits.
The role of the pipeline
The $3.2 billion pipeline project will be used to transport natural gas to power plants. FPL says natural gas accounts for 71 percent of the fuel it uses to run its generators.