Florida Power & Light Co. will need additional natural gas to power its plants by 2017, and a proposed $3.5 billion pipeline is the most cost-effective way to go, state regulatory staff said Friday.
The Florida Public Service Commission is scheduled to vote Oct. 24 on whether the project is prudent. PSC staff on Friday recommended approval of the two-phase, 591-mile steel pipeline from Alabama to FPL’s plant in Indiantown. It will travel through 13 Florida counties, four Alabama counties and eight Georgia counties.
Florida now is served by two major natural gas pipelines — Florida Gas Transmission Co. LLC and Gulfstream Natural Gas System.
The proposed third pipeline would give the state 25 percent more natural gas capacity, FPL officials said. Its northern 465 miles is a joint venture of Houston-based Spectra Energy subsidiary Sabal Trail Transmission and a newly-formed subsidiary of FPL’s parent company, Next Era Energy Inc., called U.S. Southeastern Gas Infrastructure LLC. The Southern Pipeline project will be owned by another newly-formed FPL affiliate, Florida Southeast Connection.
Construction is scheduled to begin in 2016 with completion slated for 2017, Spectra spokeswoman Andrea Grover said Friday.
Approximately 3,000 property owners along a 600-foot wide “survey corridor” have been contacted, Grover said. Property owners are paid for the easements. Project representatives have already started meeting with them.
“Ultimately, the easements we would seek to acquire would be 50 feet wide. There is a lot of room for us to determine the best placement of that,” Grover said.
Julia Taylor, a resident of Branford in Suwanee County in Northwest Florida, said she and her neighbors do not want the pipeline coming through their rural area that she described as a wildlife sanctuary with deer, gopher tortoises, owls, possums and more.
“You are taking a huge chunk out of this wildlife sancutary and flattening trees you can’t replace. We have trees that are hundreds of years old,” Taylor said.
Residents of Alabama and Georgia have also voiced concerns about the pipeline coming onto private property, according to published reports.
Juno Beach-based FPL selected Sabal Trail and FSC natural gas following a request for proposals process. The combined projects are expected to save up to $450 million over the term of the contracts compared to the next most-cost effective proposal.
In 2009 the PSC denied FPL’s request to develop, build and operate the proposed 280-mile Florida EnergySecure Line, saying it was not least expensive way to provide more capacity. The commission told FPL to start over again.
FPL’s modernized plants that will use natural gas instead of oil are the primary driver of the need for more natural gas. A new plant in Cape Canaveral is already up and running, and plants in Riviera Beach and Hollywood are under construction.