Natural gas pipeline permit challenged

Natural gas pipeline permit challenged

Two weeks after the Florida Department of Environmental Protection rejected a Georgia group’s petition to challenge a DEP permit for the Sabal Trail natural gas pipeline, the WWALS Watershed Coalition — an advocacy group focused on the Withlacoochee, Willacoochee, Alapaha, Little and Upper Suwannee rivers in Georgia and Florida — has filed another petition.

The DEP general counsel will now review this petition and decide whether to allow it to proceed to the state Division of Administrative Hearings.

The DEP previously rejected the initial challenge, saying WWALS lacked legal standing because it was not an environmental group incorporated in Florida and did not show that a “substantial number of its members … are substantially affected by the challenged agency action.”

The DEP gave the group 14 days to file another petition.

In the fresh challenge filed Friday, WWALS officials noted that they incorporated a Florida-based nonprofit on Aug. 23 and that 36 of the parent organization’s members live in Florida, including Hamilton and Suwannee counties, two counties through which the pipeline is planned to run.

In this area of the state, the environmental organization Our Santa Fe River Inc. is not part of the challenge, but a group representative says they support WWALS.

The pipeline is planned to carry up to 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day from Alabama through south Georgia and a dozen Florida counties, including Alachua, Gilchrist, Suwannee, Levy and Marion counties, to a connector pipeline in Osceola County. The pipeline would provide natural gas for a Florida Power & Light electric generation and a Duke Energy plant in Citrus County.

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