VALDOSTA, GA (WALB) - Around 50 people attended the Lowndes County Commission work session on Monday morning for an opportunity to hear from Sabal Trail officials on the progress of the proposed natural gas pipeline.
The presentation began with Brian Fahrenthold, Director of Governmental affairs for Spectra Energy, using a series of Power Point slides to explain that Sabal Trail has narrowed down the proposed corridor for the pipeline and what areas are expected to be impacted.
"Four Counties are in Alabama. It goes on to the South Western portions of Georgia [and] enters into Florida just South of here," Fahrenthold said.
According to the maps Fahrenthold showed, the current proposed route of the pipeline cuts through the North Eastern corner of Mitchell County and runs down through the middle of Colquitt and Brooks County diagonally from left to right. The pipeline also cuts through the South West portion of Lowndes County before crossing into Florida.
This updated route, Fahrenthold pointed out, reduces the amount of the city of Valdosta that would be affected as well as reduces the overall area of Lowndes County that would be affected.
"The first route was 31.3 miles and the [new route] is 15.6. That's a fifty percent reduction in our proposed route," said Fahrenthold.
Fahrenthold also emphasized that construction on the pipeline has not yet begun, despite some residents' concerns that it had. Fahrenthold said officials are still in the process of surveying the land where the pipeline would be placed, adding that the survey process would have to be completed before any construction could begin.
"In Lowndes County," Fahrenthold said, "we've had ninety percent permission for survey."
The ten percent of residents that have denied Sabal Trail permission to survey their land have done so for a variety of reasons.
Chief among their concerns is the safety hazards that the pipeline poses and the pipeline's potentially negative affects on the value of their land.
Larry Rodgers owns land in the area where the pipeline is being proposed and he echoed these concerns.
"A huge impact on land values," said Rodgers. "Not to mention the safety factor, but I'm told that this could affect the land value of my property up to fifty percent."
Rodgers originally gave surveyors permission to survey his land, but says he denied them any such permission in the future after the surveyors left water bottles and trash on his land after completing the survey.
Andrea Grover, Director of Stakeholder Outreach for Spectra Energy, said she understands that citizens have many concerns and that's why public presentations and hearings are held.
"Obviously, safety is another item that is top of mind. We're able to talk about the operations and maintenance and integrity management plans that we have and are there to ensure that those pipelines are operating safely," Grover said.
No matter how well-intentioned the hearings are, Rodgers said he, like many of the concerned citizens, feel that Sabal trail isn't being entirely honest.
"I'm not sure they're providing all the information to the property owners," Rodgers said.
Sabal Trail will hold another public hearing on Monday, December 16th, from 5:30-7 p.m. in the Clyattville Elementary Cafeteria.