Court orders new environmental review for Sabal Trail Pipeline

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Court orders new environmental review for Sabal Trail Pipeline

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Catherine Doe, right, of West Palm Beach, joins gas pipeline protesters outside of Florida Power and Light headquarters on Universe Boulevard in Juno Beach on October 14, 2016. The Sabal Trail Pipeline is slated to bring natural gas to FPL’s South Florida plants in 2017. Groups oppose the 515-mile pipeline that will start in Alabama and bring fracked gas through several counties in Florida’s springs and wetlands. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

A federal appeals court on Tuesday ordered a second environmental review of a network of natural gas pipelines being built across Alabama, Florida and Georgia, saying federal regulators had not included enough information about potential greenhouse gas emissions that will result from burning the gas the pipelines will carry.

The $3 billion project is already operational after being authorized by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in February 2016. It is anchored by the nearly 500-mile Sabal Trail Pipeline, which cuts across southwest Georgia on its way from Alabama to Osceola County, Florida, just south of Orlando.

Energy companies involved with the project say it is needed to bring affordable natural gas to Florida residents. Some property owners in the project’s path, however, have decried the project’s use of condemnation to allow for pipeline rights-of-way on private land.

Environmentalists have also questioned both its scope and need, saying it could potentially pollute clean water sources. That includes the Sierra Club, which filed a lawsuit with two other environmental groups claiming the commission should have considered alternative routes for the pipeline to lessen its impact and that it had inadequately assesses the project’s environmental impact.

In a 2-1 ruling, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ordered a new environmental review of the project but said the commission had otherwise acted properly.

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