FERC staff issued a favorable final environmental impact statement (FEIS) for the Southeast Market Pipelines (SMP) Project, which is composed of the Sabal Trail Transmission LLC project, the Hillabee Expansion and Florida Southeast Connection projects.

SMP would provide about 1.1 Bcf/d of gas to markets in Florida and the Southeast. The project calls for building 685.5 miles of pipeline and six new compressor stations, as well as modifying existing compressor stations in Alabama, Florida and Georgia. A draft environmental impact statement was issued in September (see Daily GPI, Sept. 4).

Sabal Trail, a Spectra Energy project, has been evaluating proposed routes, design and construction methods and potential impacts on community members and the environment since June 2013.

The FEIS said that while construction will temporarily affect the environment, the environmental impacts would be less than significant due to Sabal Trail’s proposed mitigation and other mitigation measures recommended by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission environmental staff.

A number of commenters in the Sabal Trail docket have raised concerns about sensitive limestone geology in Florida, called karst, which is prone to developing sinkholes. One of these commenters was the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, EPA recently retracted its criticisms of Sabal Trail, including those related to karst (see Daily GPI, Dec. 17).

According to Spectra, with regard to karst geology, the FEIS states that Sabal Trail will not significantly impact karst terrain, springs or the Floridan Aquifer with its construction or operations. Sabal Trail has conducted a thorough assessment of these areas and consulted with area experts to ensure this is the case.

“Additionally, FERC found no evidence that sinkhole development poses a safety risk for the pipeline and referenced the absence of events with existing pipelines. Sabal Trail’s construction techniques and operation plans in karst areas were acceptable to FERC.”

FERC staff also said that Sabal Trail would not significantly affect local communities.

Spectra said it expects FERC to decide on a certificate for its project during the first quarter of next year.

Sabal Trail would run from a Transcontinental Gas Pipeline Co. station in Tallapoosa County, AL, to serve Florida demand, particularly for gas-fired power generation. As planned, the pipeline would cross a dozen Florida counties, entering the state in Hamilton County and ending in Osceola County.