Pipeline bringing gas, concerns to Floridians

By Dave D'Marko, Reporter
Last Updated: Wednesday, October 23, 2013, 5:13 PM EDT

A new gas pipeline is coming to Florida that will pump up to a billion cubic feet a day to Florida Power and Light customers.

But some property owners aren’t happy. The company plans to take the pipeline right through their land. Sabal Trail Transmission met with landowners in Kissimmee Tuesday night. Another meeting is planned at South Lake High School in Groveland Wednesday.

Gertrude Dickinson, 82, got her first letter in June, warning her a company was bidding to bring a gas pipeline to Florida and her property was being considered. She didn’t wait for the project to gain approval, which it did later in the summer, and started fighting it immediately.

“I said I want a map of exactly where you are putting that pipe on my land and how much you are going to use,” Dickinson said.

She said what she got in return was this map showing all three states the 465 mile pipeline would go through, and a dot showing the general area she lived in Sumter County. What it didn’t explain is why they wanted to go through her land, and not the state-owned prairie across the street.

Spectra Energy says the Sabal Trail transmission line will provide diversity and reliability to Southeastern gas markets, ultimately serving up to 4 million customers.

Letters back from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission explained the company only wanted permission to survey the land for a 600-foot-wide corridor, with the pipeline construction itself only being about 100 feet wide.

Andrea Grover, a spokesperson for Sabal Trail Transmission, is part of the "Right of Way" team meeting with 3,000 landowners along the corridor. She said so far 80 percent have given permission for land surveying.

But Dickinson posted no trespassing signs, refusing to let surveyors on her land. Signs on her property point out she suffers from a condition known as auditory recruitment, which means noise from construction would be greatly amplified in her ears. She says previous episodes have led to heart attacks.

The company said it will reimburse owners fair value for their property, but Dickinson doubts that would be much in this economy.

 “I can buy a few bags of groceries with the money and that’s it, and for what? They’ve taken my property, and my entrance, and my life possibly who knows,” she said.

Surveying for the corridor is ongoing. The $3 billion pipeline will end in Osceola County and is expected to be complete by 2017.

Only landowners who could be directly affected were invited to this week's meetings. Sabal Trail says it will have another series of meetings in December for other community members to voice their concerns.