- Associated Press - Saturday, August 13, 2016

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) - Construction of a new $3.2-billion natural gas pipeline that will travel through three Southeastern states could begin within a week after the project received its final approvals on Friday despite years of challenge from environmental groups.

The Gainesville Sun reports (https://bit.ly/2blK6fw ) that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Friday approved the start of construction on a piece of the 516-mile Sabal Trail project in north Florida. Work could begin as soon as Wednesday.

The move came after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finalized permits allowing the companies building the project to discharge dredged and fill materials into wetlands and other water bodies during construction.

The project, joint effort by Spectra Energy, Duke Energy and Florida Power & Light, will carry natural gas from Alabama, through Georgia, into Florida.

The permit will require the companies to buy offset credits for so-called “wetland mitigation banks,” which are preserved or restored wetlands that are meant to offset losses incurred from Army Corps projects elsewhere.

Federal environmental regulators had previously projected that the project will destroy or impact less than 900 acres of wetlands, but dropped those concerns later in the permitting process.

Spectra Energy spokeswoman Andrea Grover told the newspaper that the start of construction is targeted later this month. The pipeline will be divided into five segments on which building will begin simultaneously, she said.

Environmental groups have opposed it over concerns about its effects on wetlands, springs and sinkholes, and vowed to keep fighting.

The Sierra Club’s Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson told the newspaper the group would continue seeking legal challenges.

“We will use all legal means necessary to stop this fracked gas pipeline,” she said in a text message.


Information from: The Gainesville (Fla.) Sun, https://www.gainesvillesun.com

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