Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Florida county officials support compromise pipeline route

MANATEE, Fla. - Manatee County commissioners said on Sept. 3 that they will support a compromise route for the proposed Port Dolphin pipeline, but only with conditions. Among them: That the county be allowed to remove high-quality beach sand in the natural gas pipeline’s proposed path before it is built.
That’s the position the county plans to submit to the U.S. Coast Guard, which is taking public comment on a draft environmental study of Port Dolphin Energy LLC’s $1 billion proposal.
The company wants to put a platform 28 miles from shore, where ships would unload liquefied natural gas. The gas then would be shipped through the pipeline, which would come ashore at Port Manatee and connect with existing land pipelines for distribution.
County and Longboat Key officials initially objected to the pipeline’s original proposed route because it would cross prime sources of sand for beach renourishment. The company later agreed to move the pipeline farther north but not far enough in the eyes of town officials, who continue to explore possible legal action.
“We are pleased that there is a potential resolution for us to move sand out of the way in advance,” said Bruce St. Denis, Longboat Key’s town manager.
Port Dolphin officials also have said they are willing to help the county get the sand by paying the permitting costs, estimated at $400,000 to $500,000, as well as sharing in the dredging costs, said Charlie Hunsicker, the county’s natural resources director. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection also has indicated a willingness to reduce the permitting process from two or three years to as little as one year, he said.

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