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Pipeline project may be leaving farmers with significant property costs

Georgia readers, especially in the southwest part of the state, may have heard by now of the Sabal Trail Pipeline, which runs across southwest Georgia down into Florida. The pipeline, which is a joint project of several energy companies, runs across nine counties in the state of Georgia, covering a lot of farmland, with the aim of bringing natural gas supplies to Florida.

As is often the case with such projects, there are various environmental concerns. The concerns about the impact of the pipeline project on property owners in Georgia are highlighted by what happened to a farmer in Brooks County earlier this year. 

In late January, the farmer’s property was left in ruins after his terrace system was destroyed by digging for the pipeline project. The terrace system was apparently necessary to reduce topsoil erosion, but the pipeline contractors and management apparently did little or nothing to prevent destruction of the terrace system, despite the fact that they were warned on multiple occasions about the matter.  As a result of the digging, the farmer’s property was devastated by rains, and now requires extensive and expensive restoration efforts which could take decades.

Representatives of the pipeline project say that they did take measures to prevent erosion, sediment and storm water problems as required by federal and state law, and that they followed the Best Management Practices conservation practices designed to protect surface water quality. They have also said they plan to work to restore each property to the condition it was in prior to the work performed for the pipeline project.

Two specific areas where there are questions about the project’s compliance in this case are the requirements of the Clean Water Act of 1972, as well as those of the so-called Green Book. In our next post, we’ll pick up on this point and look at some of the other legal issues the pipeline project may be raising. 

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