ORLANDO, Fla. - A third natural gas pipeline is in the works for Florida. But, even as the power companies pushing the plan tout the need for increased natural gas in the state, questions are being raised about the company actually building the pipeline.
The $3 billion Sabal Trail Pipeline will stretch from Alabama to Orange County. The plan is backed by FP&L and Duke Energy; the main electric providers in Central Florida. The pipeline will be built by Houston-based company Spectra Energy.
Nine Investigates reviewed fines and complaints recorded against Spectra by the US Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. According to documents published by the PHMSA, Spectra has been dined more than $400,000 in the last decade for problems with its lines and for property damage.
In a December 2012 order, the PHMSA fined Spectra $134,500 for violations. The agency recorded that Spectra failed on “two instances, to inspect the internal surface of removed sections of pipe for evidence of corrosion.”
Spectra is also currently investing a pipeline rupture in Arkansas. In May, the pipeline under the Arkansas River ruptured. The rupture caused two miles of the river to be shut down with an estimated 3.9 million cubic feet of natural gas released.
“Is that the kind of company that we want drilling under our rivers and through the fragile limestone,” asks John Quarterman of the WWALS Watershed Coalition.
Quarterman and the coalition recently filed a petition with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to stop the pipeline.
In a written statement to Nine Investigates, Spectra spokesperson Andrea Grover wrote, “our safety record is better than the industry average; our reportable incidents were approximately half the rate of the industry average during the past five years.”
DEP has not yet responded to the complaint filed by the WWALS Watershed Coalition.
Even as environmentalists decry the pipeline, others are asking questions about the influence energy companies have on Florida’s elected leaders, including Governor Rick Scott.
According to documents obtained by Eyewitness News, FP&L Vice President Sam Forrest, was on Governor Scott's transition team. In that role, he drafted this proposal calling on the state to add an additional gas pipeline, noting that legislation was needed.
In 2013, governor Scott signed that legislation. Shortly thereafter, the Public Service Commission approved the initial stages of the pipeline plan.
One year later, Governor Scott opened up his blind trust, revealing that he owned a $53,000 share of Spectra Energy.