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    Pipeline protests turn south: Floridians oppose new $3 billion pipeline

    By Chaffin Mitchell, AccuWeather staff writer
    January 18, 2017, 3:27:52 PM EST

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    Another pipeline protest has flared up in the United States, but in Florida.

    Pipelines have been a controversial topic, especially following the protests of the the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

    More than 10 have been arrested after protesting the Sabal Trail Pipeleine -- what many are calling Florida's version of the DAPL.




    The two pipeline projects were evaluated and approved by federal, state and local government regulatory agencies. The Army Corps of Engineers was among the agencies to approve the pipeline projects.

    Construction on the Sabal Trail Pipeline began in August of 2016, and by mid-2017, the two pipeline systems are set to be complete.

    Critics say the pipeline will raise significant environmental issues related to drinking water supplies, sensitive geologic formations, wetlands, conservation areas, environmental justice communities, air quality and greenhouse gas emissions.

    The steel pipeline is a $3.2 billion investment designed to carry unrefined natural gas. The gas is harvested using the hydraulic fracking process and transferred under high pressure over a 515-mile stretch from Alabama to Florida.

    Being unrefined, the payload will contain a volatile mixture full of known toxins and carcinogens. The area of Florida that the pipeline is traveling through is covered with old sinkholes and other ripe areas that could easily collapse, critics said.

    southeast-pipeline-project.jpg

    Pipeline Project Map (Image via Sabal Trail Transmission)


    A rupture in the pipeline would result in a disastrous outcome, especially if contents seep into an aquifer or ignite according to the Save Florida Waters Now organization.

    In a letter from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the EPA stated its concerns over the Sabal Trail Pipeline.

    “The EPA has substantial environmental concerns that local community water supplies could be adversely impacted in the future,” Chief of National Environmental Policy Act Program with the Resource Conservation and Restoration Division Christopher A. Militscher said.

    Based on EPA calculations, the proposed pipelines would impact a total of 1,255.1 acres of jurisdictional wetlands, Militscher said.

    The letter stated that the proposed project will also directly impact 177.8 acres of conservation areas, including the Green Swamp in Florida.

    “The EPA has substantial environmental concerns with these dedicated conservation areas being permanently converted to a pipeline easement,” Militscher said.

    The EPA also questioned the assertion that hundreds of acres of wetlands impacted by construction would ever return to their natural state.

    “[The EPA believes] there will also be potential long-term impacts to natural resources including water quality and aquatic resources in and adjacent to the easements,” Militscher said.

    The Sierra Club, the nation's largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, filed a lawsuit against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

    "They are out there digging in the dirt trying to lay down pipe as fast as they can because the public is now getting wind of it," Sierra Club representative Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson said in a Tallahassee Democrat article.


    Any Florida resident who depends on water from the Floridan aquifer could be at a long-term risk of dealing with contaminated water.

    Though the EPA raised substantial concerns and Florida residents didn’t approve it, the pipeline was given a green light.

    When asked why the Army Corps of Engineers approved the pipeline, they sent the following response to AccuWeather:

    "The Corps of Engineers permitted those waters and wetlands within our jurisdiction. We always work to ensure we provide the regulated public with fair and reasonable decisions while providing protection to the Nation's aquatic resources," Public Affairs Specialist for the Army Corps of Engineers Nikki Nobles said.

    Opponents of the pipeline said the agencies in charge chose profit over people.

    “Conflicts of interest and corruption are endemic from top to bottom here,” Adam Dubbin with Save Florida Waters Now Organization said. “The politics of this state are such that business comes before the environment.”

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    Four congressmen have taken a stand against the environmentally-hazardous pipeline, including Congressman Sanford D. Bishop Jr.

    “…common sense would suggest that a pipeline carrying a highly flammable substance and a massive polluting industrial facility should not be placed in any residential community, much less an environmental justice community,” Congressman Bishop said.

    Dubbin said those who oppose the pipeline can help by protesting, calling, emailing, donating to organizations working to stop this pipeline like Greenpeace or 350 and sign petitions.

    “They can divest their money from banks that are invested in hydrocarbons and other destructive industries and open local credit union accounts, many of which have better rates and ownership benefits,” Dubbin said.

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