Assistant Albany Fire Department Chief Ron Rowe, left, talks with Sabal Trail Survey Data Manager Russell Smith Thursday about the proposed location of a 465-mile natural gas pipeline that is expected to run through part of Dougherty County. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)
ALBANY — Landowners and other area stakeholders impacted by Spectra Energy’s proposed $3 billion Alabama-to-Florida natural gas pipeline talked informally with representatives of the company at a community forum Thursday evening.
Around 30 Spectra employees wearing light-blue polo shirts bearing a Sabal Trail Transmission logo set up at various stations at Albany Technical College’s Kirkland Conference Center and talked one-on-one with a steady group of interested citizens and county officials. Sabal Trail is the name of the 465-mile pipeline that will have the capacity to transport a billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. The initial route of the pipeline takes it through a portion of Dougherty County.
“Our meeting tonight was held to talk about the compressor station that is likely to be located in Dougherty County,” Sabal Trail spokeswoman Andrea Grover said. “We locate them every 100 miles or so along the pipeline to ensure optimal flow of the natural gas. We’re in conversation with Albany officials about an optimal site for a compressor station location here.
“We understand (citizens’) concerns about the compressor station, and we’re here to answer any of their questions. We want to assure them that we follow strict safety guidelines in the operation of these facilities. They’re constantly monitored, and any glitch leads to an immediate shutdown of the station until the problem is discovered and addressed.”
Deputy Dougherty County Emergency Management Director Jim Vaught, who attended Thursday’s meeting, said emergency personnel in the county are prepared for any issue that might surface with the location of a compressor station in the county.
“They’re talking about a location near Fire Station No. 8 (5824 Newton Road), which would be an optimal location in the event of any kind of emergency,” Vaught said. “A lot of people aren’t aware that there are several pipelines running through Dougherty County now, and we train every year for emergencies associated specifically with them. We work with the pipeline companies to familiarize ourselves with their operations, and this (Sabal Trail) pipeline would be nothing new for us.”
There were those at the meeting, though, who did not share Vaught’s outlook. Carol Singletary with the grassroots Valdosta-based anti-pipeline group Spectrabusters, encouraged property owners to oppose the pipeline.
“I got involved (with Spectrabusters) because (Spectra) plans to run this pipeline through the middle of my property,” Singletary said. “But it’s as important to me to protect my neighbors’ property as it is my own.
“They hold these meetings and bring in a bunch of people to keep the landowners divided. If they see a group talking, they’ll come in and escort people in different directions. They work hard to keep the people uninformed. I asked for copies of their (proposed pipeline trail) map at one of these meetings on Oct. 16, and they still haven’t sent me one.”
Singletary gave citizens a handout at Thursday’s meeting that encouraged them to: make complaints to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission at FERC.gov, express concerns to local, state and federal government officials, use social media to spread the word about the pipeline and gather information at sites like the spectrabusters.org website.
Singletary also said the group would hold a 10 a.m. meeting today at Valdosta’s Clarion Motel.
While most at Albany Tech Thursday had a specific stake in the pipeline, others were there for informational purposes. Earnestine Jones came to the meeting to collect information for members of the Southwest Albany Indian Creek Residents Association Inc.
“We have residents in our neighborhood who are unable to come to these meetings, so we try to gather information to take back to them,” Jones said. “We’re not making any judgments; we’re here to get information.”
Grover said Spectra, which has completed around 90 percent of the pathway surveying required to complete the Sabal Trail project, would hold another community meeting at Albany Tech Dec. 11 at 5 p.m.