Joe Dent on the Sabal Trail Project: There's Still Time to Be Heard

Joe Dent

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

Many in Southwest Georgia have heard about the Sabal Trail Project, which is the proposal for a high pressure gas line to be constructed through Georgia to transport compressed gas from Alabama to Florida. None of the gas being transported is slated to be used in Georgia. There are several landowners in Albany, Dougherty County, and surrounding areas who may be directly affected by the proposed project, and there are numerous other landowners who are near the proposed pipelines and/or the compressor station needed to "pump" the gas.

The formal application for the Sabal Trail Project has been filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and the application was combined with two other applications, the Hillabee Expansion Project and the Florida Southeast Connection LLC's FSC Project. FERC is currently considering information on all three applications in order to prepare its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which is the next step in the application process. During this process landowners and any other interested parties have the opportunity to comment on the project.

When the application was submitted, a deadline date to intervene and become a party to the application was set. Although that deadline has passed, the opportunity to be heard by FERC still remains. Any interested party may still file comments regarding the application. FERC considers all comments when it prepares the EIS. Additionally, after considering all of the comments and evidence submitted both pro and con to the application, FERC will issue a draft EIS. Interested parties will be afforded the opportunity to comment on the draft EIS before the final EIS is issued prior to the FERC ruling on the application.

Sabal Trail is proposing two possible routes through Albany and Dougherty, Lee, and Terrell Counties, and other surrounding counties are also affected by the proposed routes. Several landowners directly affected by the proposed routes have intervened in the application process. Also, landowners not directly impacted by the proposed line as well as interested groups and individuals have intervened in the process. Those that have intervened have retained experts to prepare reports regarding the adverse effects of the pipeline on air quality and the environment, including, but not limited to geological impact, considering the karst subsoil which is subject to sinkholes, wetland impact, and endangered species impact. The experts are also investigating the potential for the pipeline to be co-located alongside existing pipeline routes that would entirely avoid Dougherty County or greatly minimize the impacts in the County.

Some of the landowners who have intervened have joined forces to challenge the Sabal Trail Project. Their environmental attorneys are working together in preparing a unified objection to the proposed pipeline routes, and they are pooling their resources in retaining experts to prepare the reports showing the adverse effects of the proposed pipeline routes to their clients' properties. Watson Spence is working closely with the environmental attorneys and assisting at the local level. Landowners whose property is directly impacted by the proposed pipeline routes, landowners who are near the proposed pipeline routes, and other landowners and interested parties, who haven't intervened and might believe they have no say in the process, still have an opportunity to join the fight and be heard by FERC. Comments on behalf of those who haven't intervened, which can include findings of experts showing the negative impacts of the proposed routes, can still be filed with FERC. However, time is of the essence, and if you are a landowner interested in having a say in the EIS issued by FERC you need to act now.