Gas pipeline to connect with new FPL plant

OKEECHOBEE — The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Environmental Assessment of the Florida Southeast Connection, LLC gas line was released earlier this month, indicating the project will not create a significant environmental impact.

The staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) prepared an environmental assessment for the Okeechobee Lateral Pipeline Project (Project) proposed by Florida Southeast Connection, LLC (FSC). FSC proposes to construct and operate approximately 5.2 miles of 20-inch-diameter natural gas transmission pipeline and associated facilities in Okeechobee County, Fla.

This pipeline will connect FSC’s mainline system with the Florida Power & Light Company’s Okeechobee Clean Energy Center (OCEC) and would be capable of providing 400 million cubic feet per day of natural gas to the new power plant.

“The Environmental Assessment assesses the potential environmental impacts of constructing and operating the Project in accordance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA),” the report states. “The FERC staff concludes that approval of the Project would not constitute a major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.”

The Okeechobee Clean Energy Center is a 1,600-megawatt, natural gas-fired, combined cycle generating station currently under construction in Okeechobee County, Fla. When completed, the approximately 220-acre OCEC plant site will consist of three combustion turbine/electric generators, three heat recovery steam generators, one steam turbine-electrical generator, on-site support facilities, a transmission line interconnection, associated facilities, and access roads. Additionally, adjacent to the OCEC site is an approximately 376-acre mitigation site and 1,600 acres of land available for future development. The OCEC is expected to enter into service in the second quarter of 2019, according to the report.

On Oct. 24, 2017, the Federal Energy Regulation Commission issued a Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Assessment for the Proposed Okeechobee Lateral Pipeline Project and Request for Comments on Environmental Issues (NOI). The NOI was sent to affected landowners; federal, state, and local government agencies; elected officials; environmental and public interest groups; Native American tribes; other interested parties; and local libraries and newspapers. In response to the NOI, the Commission received comments from the Treasure Coast Democratic Environmental Caucus, Seminole Tribe of Florida, Sierra Club, the Economic Council of Okeechobee County, and Guy Yudin & Foster LLP on behalf of Treasure Coast Democratic Environmental Caucus.

The primary issues raised by the commentors concern air quality, cumulative impacts, potential future projects and connected actions, cultural resources, project need, alternatives, and greenhouse gas and upstream emissions, the report explains.

“Based on our review of FSC’s application and supplemental information, we have determined that installing and operating the proposed facilities would not affect geology and fisheries,” the report states. “Additionally, FSC’s use of existing roads to access workspace would not measurably affect the environment.”

The report reviewed potential impacts on groundwater. “The facilities would overlie the Floridan Aquifer System (FAS). As a whole, the FAS is one of the most productive aquifers in the world, extending for more than 100,000 square miles and providing drinking water to approximately 10 million people. In 2005, about 60 percent of the 2.5 billion gallons per day of groundwater used in Florida was obtained from the FAS. Of the groundwater used, public supply accounted for 52 percent, followed by agriculture (31 percent) and commercial-industrial-mining (8.5 percent). The pipeline would be located within 1,000 feet of a public water supply well and within 2,500 feet of six private water supply wells.

No wellhead protection areas would be crossed by the pipeline, the report explains.

“Based on FSC’s proposed construction procedures and its impact avoidance and minimization measures, we conclude that potential impacts on groundwater would be temporary, minor, and localized and that installing and operating the facilities would not significantly affect groundwater.”

Installing the pipeline would require the crossing of eight small roadside and agricultural ditches, stock ponds, and other water conveyance features, none of which are considered sensitive, special, or unique, the report continues.

“We have determined that installing and operating the Project facilities would not significantly affect surface waters.”

The Environmental Assessment also considered the impact on wetlands and the procedures that will be used to minimize impact on wetlands and restore areas temporarily impacted by construction.

“We have determined that installing and operating the facilities would not significantly affect wetlands,” the report states.

The investigators also found the project will not significantly affect vegetation, wildlife or migratory birds. No designated critical habitat for any species would be affected by the project, the report continues.

The survey did not identify any archaeological sites within the project area, and there would be no effect on historic properties, the report continues. The State Historic Preservation Officer concurred with this assessment.

FSC previously prepared a plan in the event any unanticipated historic properties or human remains were encountered during construction.

Any person who wishes to comment on the EA may still do so. Comments should focus on potential environmental impacts, reasonable alternatives, and measures to avoid or lessen impacts. The more specific your comments, the more useful they will be. To ensure that the commission has the opportunity to consider comments prior to making a decision, they must be submitted before April 16, 2018.

The commission encourages electronic filing of comments and has expert staff available to assist the public at 202-502-8258 or FercOnlineSupport@ferc.gov.

There are three ways to file comments:

• You can file your comments electronically using the eComment feature located on the website www.ferc.gov under the link to Documents and Filings. This is an easy method for submitting brief, text-only comments on a project;

• You can also file your comments electronically using the eFiling feature on the website www.ferc.go) under the link to Documents and Filings. With eFiling, you can provide comments in a variety of formats by attaching them as a file with your submission. New eFiling users must first create an account by clicking on “eRegister.” You must select the type of filing you are making. If you are filing a comment on a particular project, please select “Comment on a Filing”; or,

• You can file a paper copy of your comments by mailing them to the following address: Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 888 First Street NE, Room 1A, Washington, D.C. 20426.

Editor Katrina Elsken can be reached at kelsken@newszap.com

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