Residents ask questions about proposed FPL pipeline to cross Treasure Coast
By Janet Begley
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Florida Power & Light Co. is planning a 300-mile natural gas pipeline across the Treasure Coast and they asked residents Thursday just what they thought of the idea.
The meet-and-greet at the Best Western Hotel on State Road 60 in Vero Beach drew about 30 people, most of them interested in the thousands of jobs and millions in property tax revenue the project could bring to the Treasure Coast.
Fort Pierce resident Eddie McDonald said he came to hear how the proposed project could benefit his home construction business. “They’ll have to hire people to put the pipeline in,” McDonald said. “And those people will need houses. That’s more work for me.”
It was the second open house this week for FPL officials, according to spokeswoman Patricia Davis. The first took place Tuesday in Port St. Lucie and also drew about 30 participants. Eight more open houses are planned throughout the state.
Representatives from FPL’s regulatory, environmental and construction divisions answered questions and provided handouts about the proposed pipeline route that includes four Treasure Coast counties. If approved by the state, FPL would begin construction in 2012, with an expected completion date of January 2014.
The $1.5 billion project would stretch from the FPL plant in Martin County, cross through portions of St. Lucie, Okeechobee and Indian River counties and then head west into Osceola County. FPL estimates Indian River County alone could receive about $33 million in property tax revenues over the next 40 years if the pipeline is built.
About 90 percent of the pipeline would be built along existing FPL transmission line rights of way, Davis said. The northern end of the pipeline would connect with a gas receipt plant in Bradford County and would broaden FPL’s access to natural gas supplies from Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana.
Since the pipeline would provide a third major route for natural gas across Florida, it could also protect the state from a supply disruption in the case of hurricanes, tropical storms or other natural disasters.
FPL said the reason for the outreach process was to get feedback about the route the Florida EnergySecure Line will take. “If they have a specific reason for opposing the route, we need to know that,” Davis said.
Vero Beach resident Jason Williams said he came to the open house to hear more about FPL’s plans.
“I think natural gas is cleaner than other fossil fuels and I’m in favor of the pipeline’s path,” he said. “A lot of people may say ‘not in my backyard’ but then you have to question just whose backyard should it be in.”