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Commissioners give support to natural gas pipeline plans

Posted on Tuesday, April 22, 2014 at 4:08 pm

By Ken Jackson

Staff Writer

With the blessing of the Board of Osceola County Commissioners, a new underground pipeline which will bring more capacity to serve the state with natural gas will pass through parts of the county when it is built and goes into service sometime in 2017.

Above is a map of a new underground pipeline which will bring more capacity to serve the state with natural gas will pass through parts of the county when it is built and goes into service sometime in 2017.

Above is a map of a new underground pipeline which will bring more capacity to serve the state with natural gas will pass through parts of the county when it is built and goes into service sometime in 2017.

Board members approved and authorized Chairman Fred Hawkins to sign a letter to support the Florida Southeast Connection and the Sabal Trail Hub.

Florida Power and Light has contracted two companies to bring more natural gas into the state, as the two transmission lines in service in Florida currently both are at capacity, Nick Blount told commissioners on April 14.

Blount represents the FSC, and said while natural gas power is a resource just beginning to be tapped throughout the country, Florida has no storage capacity and very little production despite being the second-leading user of natural gas in the country, behind only Texas, which has 16 times the miles of transmission pipeline as Florida.

“Nearly 68 percent of the power used by Floridians is generated by NG power plants,” Blount said. “Prices are low, supply is as high as it’s ever been, and new sources are being discovered as we speak.

“Speaking for FPL, in 2001 we used 40 million barrels of oil. In 2012, we reduced to less than one million barrels by replacing older oil-burning plants with natural gas. That is the trend throughout the industry.”

The Sabal Trail Transmission would stretch from central Alabama to Central Florida to a compression hub that may be located near the intersection of County Road 532 (County Line Road) and U.S. Highway 17-92.

The Florida Southeast Connection would connect to that hub, where it would meet an existing natural gas transmission line, and traverse south for 127 miles across five counties, including the southern part of Osceola County, to its terminus at FPL’s Martin County Clean Energy Center in Indiantown, just east of Lake Okeechobee.

An additional transmission line would run northeast from the compression hub through Osceola County into the Orlando area.

Blount said construction on the project could begin in late 2015 or early 2016.

“The process is lengthy including regulatory commission review,” he said.

The pipeline would require a 50-foot easement, but Blount said the land for it has not been acquired yet, and the planned route continues to be slightly adjusted to address concerned landowners along the proposed route.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) held a community scoping meeting on March 20 at the Kissimmee Civic Center to gather input and concerns from the public. FSC Environmental representative John Tessier said the Sierra Club has posted a letter of concern to FERC’s website over the use of natural gas, but no environmental groups voiced opposition at the Kissimmee meeting.

Commissioner John Quiñones said if all the details of safety and steering clear of future road projects in the southern part of the county where the FSC is proposed, helping produce a clean, domestic energy source is a worthy by-product.

“I’m in favor of the concept, but the devil’s in the details,” he said. “I want to make sure of the language of the concept, and I’m sure there will be things that will come up with property owners and ranchers. But becoming energy independent gets us away from the realities of the uncertainties of foreign lands like the Middle East, so we need to move forward.”

Commissioner Mike Harford said he heard concerns from residents of a subdivision along County Line Road and said the northeast section of the pipeline also will affect residents in the northwest part of the county. He directed those concerns to Blount.

“I know we have one group concerned where that compression station will be. We need to be conscious of the northern section, which will affect district 1,” he said. “We need your support to minimize the impacts.”

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